I disse valgtider, hvor Miljøpartiet De Grønne gjør seg mer gjeldende tenkte jeg at min semesteroppgave fra 2014 kunne være morsomt å publisere her på bloggen, og være interessant for flere. Søsterpartiene til MDG i Sverige og Tyskland har hatt sterke posisjoner i flere år, hvorfor har ikke det samme vært tilfelle i Norge? I min semesteroppgave ved Høgskolen i Østfold (HiØ) sammenlignet jeg Miljøpartiet De Grønne med søsterpartiet Miljöpartiet De Gröna (Sverige).
Skulle du være interessert i tematikken, er det mye interessant lesing i litteraturlisten på slutten.
NB: Formateringen ble litt rar her på bloggen, men jeg skal prøve å fikse det.
The swedish green party
The norwegian greens
The Norwegian Greens (Miljøpartiet De Grønne) and environmental concerns have had a stronger influence and presence lately in Norwegian politics. This has been especially evident in the election campaign before the Parliamentary election in September of 2013. The stronger presence of the Norwegian Greens can be illustrated by number of mentions in the newspaper database Atekst. A search for “Miljøpartiet De Grønne” retrieves 1206 results if you search by the year 2012. If searching by the year 2013, the same search retrieves 4343 articles, most of them from the months of August and September (Atekst Retriever). However, the presence and influence of the Norwegian Greens is not as strong as its counterpart in Sweden, the Swedish Green Party (Miljöpartiet De Gröna), who has been represented in the Swedish Parliament for two decades.
With an historical perspective, I will examine some superficial similarities and differences between the environmental movements of Norway and Sweden. I will go on comparing the Swedish and the Norwegian Greens. I will start by outlining the historical background and the circumstances affecting the situation of the environmental movement in Norway and Sweden. After presenting and comparing the historical backgrounds of both countries, I will compare the Green parties, focusing on their experiences in terms of being in opposition versus position.
Norway and Sweden is interesting in a comparative perspective, because although both countries are highly developed and have basic and extensive similarities, the experience and influence of the environmental movements and political parties have been quite different. The central questions asked in this paper are the following; why has the environmental movement held a stronger position in Sweden than in Norway? To what does the Swedish Green Party owe its success?
In this research and term paper, I focus particularly on how environmentalism and ‘green’ politics and values in Norway and Sweden are manifested and represented in political parties, how this manifestation plays out in the Swedish and Norwegian Greens respectively, and the history and influence of these two parties.
Green politics and values can be vague, and used by different political parties for very different agendas. This can make green politics and values seem a bit confusing, and difficult to set apart from others. According to Seippel (1999) however, there are mainly four themes that are recurrent in “the environment-democracy nexus” (Seippel 1999 p. 50). Firstly there is a basic theme of community, as community is viewed as an important precondition for a well-functioning democracy. Secondly, there is a dilemma in the political process, as environmental concerns has to be dealt with in the same manner as other political issues and be put aside for the benefit of other issues if the people so prefer. A third aspect is referred to as “the misfit between the environmental issue as a social or political problem and factual environmental problems”. Environmental problems may very well, and often do, affect regions, not simply one nation. A huge issue in environmental politics is just this fact that areas affected by environmental problems often do not correspond to the social institutions that have been established to deal with them (Seippel 1999 p. 51). The final theme is the question of which values should be underpinning the political environmentalism.
These aspects are also present in the environmental discourse in Norway and Sweden, as well as a part of the challenges the Norwegian and Swedish greens face in their political work. No doubt then, that both parties are a part of the “environment-democracy nexus” as presented by Seippel as the emphasis on community is present in the political programs of both parties. In addition, both parties are a part of the green political movement in Europe, and have many basic similarities across borders. The green movement of Europe is a child of the postindustrial crisis according to Michael O’Neill, and the Greens have displayed durability, but not enjoyed the levels of support that “public empathy” with their message might suggest (O’Neill 1997 p. 51). This is a dilemma for both the Norwegian Greens and the Swedish Green Party. Despite their different levels of success, both parties have to balance their green ideologies up against the possibilities in the political system.
Traditionally three parties in Norway have fronted green politics; the Socialist Left Party of Norway (Sosialistisk Venstreparti), the Liberal Party (Venstre) and the Centre Party (Senterpartiet). The Norwegian Greens (Miljøpartiet De Grønne) has made its mark in Norwegian politics, and given voters who find environmental politics important yet another possible choice. The party’s presence has been especially noted since 2011, when the Norwegian Greens had their breakthrough in the local elections, their national breakthrough following two years later giving them one Member of Parliament. All the above-mentioned parties are surely to be mentioned again, as I outline the historical background for green politics in Norway. However, to make comparison easier and more worthwhile, the Norwegian Greens will be the main concern of this paper.
The Swedish Green Party was founded in 1981, while its Norwegian counterpart was founded in 1988. In addition to comparing the historical backgrounds and circumstances of the two parties, I will present their core political areas, as listed on their respective web pages and elaborated on in their party programs. This will help highlight any major differences or similarities between the Swedish Green Party and The Norwegian Greens.
The Norwegian Greens has listed the quite general topics of quality of life, climate smart transport and renewable future as core topics on their website (Miljøpartiet De Grønne 2014). The Swedish Green Party has listed three different core topics on their website, the general and wide topic of climate, secondly school and education followed by new jobs (Miljöpartiet de Gröna 2014). This will be elaborated on later on.
According to Dryzek et al “environmental concern” has been represented by “centralized, policy-oriented organizations such as the Norwegian Society for the Conservation of Nature, and recreational organizations” for a long time in Norway (Dryzek et al 2003 p. 21). Norwegian environmental groups also operate in close co-operation with government, and to some extent rely on government because of the funding operated by it (Dryzek et al 2003 p. 24). However, the authors also point out that some areas have been excepted from this co-operative rule. These areas include dams, hydropower, and free flowing rivers. The environmental protests experienced in Norway has been in connection with large dam proposals, and occurred in the 1970s (Dryzek et al 2003 p. 25). The expansive corporatism of Norway even in environmental cases, and the fact two parties with sympathies for the environmental agenda already existed (the Socialist Left Party of Norway (Sosialistisk Venstreparti), The Liberal Party (Venstre)) created a situation in which it was difficult for the new green party to operate, find a niche, and secure a support base. Not surprisingly then, the Norwegian Greens were not able to win any seats in the election of 1989 (Dryzek et al 2003 p. 27).
In addition to corporatism and the previous existence of two parties with environmental sympathies, Bernt Aardal points out in Green Politics: A Norwegian Experience, Norway has had a low exposure to environmental problems, and nuclear power has not been much of an issue (Aardal 1990 p. 4). In fact, the level of concern for the environment in Norway has never been higher than the levels measured in 1989 according to the survey Norsk Monitor. The radioactive fallout from the Chernobyl disaster of 1986 led to contamination in Norway and affected the public opinion on environmental issues resulting in a peak in environmental concern not since reached in the survey mentioned (Hellevik 2008 p. 235). Apart from this instance, nuclear power or fallout has not been much of an issue in Norway and this fact has been reflected by a 35% decline in respondents viewing the environmental situation as grave and in need of immediate measures in the time period between 1989 and 2003 (Hellevik 2008 p. 235).
The situation in Sweden is quite different from Norway; nuclear power has been a huge issue with a big influence on the environmentalism of the country. According to Jamison et al, environmentalism has in fact been a “more significant political force in Sweden than it has been in many other countries” (1990 p. 13). However, the Swedish corporatism, and consequently the difficulties in developing “autonomous” social movements, are the same problems as the environmental movements in Norway have struggled with. Still, the environmental movement can be said to have had a stronger political influence in Sweden than in Norway despite both having faced these issues. The Swedish Green Party made its first appearance in the Swedish Parliament in 1988 (Blom 2006), and in the parliamentary election of 2010, the party received 7, 34% of the votes. The vote share of 7, 34% in 2010 made the Swedish Greens the third largest party in parliament at the time (Jupskås 2013 p. 132). However, their vote share went down 0,45 % in the 2014 election, and they won 25 seats with a vote share of 6,89 % (Valmyndigheten 2014 p. 1).
In comparison, its Norwegian counterpart received 2,8% of the votes in the most recent general election in Norway held in 2013, winning 1 seat (Kommunal- og moderniseringsdepartementet 2013). Although that result is a big change and definitely an improvement from 2009, when the party won zero seats, it is still a long way to go before the Norwegian Greens hold the same position as the Swedish Green Party.
The electoral systems present an interesting difference between Norway and Sweden in general, and an interesting perspective on the experiences of the Green parties specifically. Norway is characterized as an open system, while Sweden in a Scandinavian context seems to represent an extreme according to Aardal (1990). The Swedish Green Party was the “first new party to enter Parliament in about seventy years” (Aardal 1990 p. 149), when the party won twenty seats in the general election of 1988 (Statistics Sweden 1989 p. 8). Even though the Swedish system can be characterized as more closed than its Norwegian counterpart, the Swedish Green Party has done well after it breached the threshold, enjoying continuous representation in the Riksdag (Swedish parliament) since 1994 (Jupskås 2013 p. 132). Furthermore, the success of the Swedish Greens seemed to be linked to “a lack of political alternatives” (Aardal 1990 p. 150), whereas the same was not the case in Norway.
Two Norwegian Parties had an environmental profile when The Norwegian Greens emerged in 1988. As a result, the Norwegian Greens had to compete with parties already well established in the political system. Ravik Jupskås (2013) elaborates on this issue – to what extent does a “political space” exist for the Norwegian Greens to fill? His conclusion before the election of 2013 stated that although the room to fill seemed small, the Norwegian Greens had created a room in civic movements and profiled leaders in the party were members of various organizations making it easier to mobilize support and votes, as well as creating an “ownership” to environmental causes. Jupskås therefore found it likely that the Norwegian Greens could get a mandate from Oslo in the parliamentary election of 2013 (Jupskås 2013 p. 141), and this was indeed the result.
Although both the Swedish Green Party and the Norwegian Greens originate from the same green tradition in Europe, their positions and context in Sweden and Norway respectively are quite different as touched upon in the previous sections.
Their different positions and influence in the political process is illustrated by the core topics of the parties. The Swedish Green Party has listed three core topics on their website, the general and wide topic of climate, secondly school and education followed by new jobs (Miljöpartiet de Gröna 2014). The Norwegian Greens has listed three different topics; quality of life, climate smart transport and renewable future as core topics on their website (Miljøpartiet De Grønne 2014). The Swedish Green Party does not only focus on climate or environmental concerns in its core topics, whereas the Norwegian Greens seem to do so, although many different aspects are intertwined in their broad core topics. One reason behind this might be the fact that as a party with only one seat, their strength and focus has been on their oppositional stand in relation to the well-established political parties in order to gain more votes and power.
Both parties criticize the traditional left-right scale in politics, and both parties can be said to have taken a clear stand against the current political structure. However, as the Swedish Green Party has had a stronger influence with a higher number of representatives than its Norwegian counterpart, the Swedish Green party has been somewhat forced to value cooperation and common ground as opposed to put too much value on their oppositional stand in order to gain power in the decision making process (Blom, 2006, p. 28).
This can be seen as a part of a process that Otto Kirchheimer formulated. This “catch- all thesis” was based on the backdrop of the Second World War, and Kirchheimer did not present his theory in a formalized thesis (Randall 2003 p. 354). Attempts at formalizing this thesis have been made, and might make it more applicable to more recent developments in politics. One attempt is made by Wolinetz (1979) and from his perspective, the political parties change and make an effort to represent topics that will appeal to a wider electoral audience, shifting away from a focus on ideologies – the latter as a result of the electorate in affluent societies being less motivated by ideologies (Randall 2003 p. 355).
In the case of Sweden, there is no doubt that environmental topics appeal to the electorate because of their experience with environmental topics such as nuclear power. From one perspective, the catch-all thesis as presented by Wolinetz might provide a reasoning behind the success of the Swedish Green Party, as their focus on topics such as nuclear power has had a great appeal and in some instances individual cases does more for the mobilization of the electorate than the underlying ideology. On the other hand, The Swedish Green Party is based on the tradition and ideologies of green parties across Europe, and has kept a focus on ideology.
In fact, both the Swedish Green Party and the Norwegian Greens make sure to emphasize that they are a part of a global movement in their party programmes as well as on their websites. Then one could say that their focus on individual cases, such as nuclear power in Sweden and recently in Norway, the investment policies of the Government Pension Fund Global fit with the catch-all thesis. However, their strong focus on the green ideology and being a part of a global social movement is the opposite of the shift away from ideologies that should take place in such a Catch All transformation. In any case, the Swedish Green Party is best fitting this transformation model as the party being in position as opposed to opposition has made them focus more on cooperation and gaining more power than pure ideological concerns as mentioned earlier.
According to Jon Burchell the Swedish Green Party has over time, as a result of growth and the development of its parliamentary role come to accept that it cannot function in isolation and it has been more open to alliances and coalitions, as this presents the party with possibilities and larger influence (Burchell 2001 p. 248). Burchell also pinpoints an important part of the experience of not only the Swedish Green Party, but in general other green parties in Europe as well. All green parties hoping to gain influence have to balance their ideological green objectives and their opposition to the traditional left-right dimensions with the pressures and possibilities presented within the systems when they breach the electoral threshold (Burchell 2001 p. 252).
In general, green political parties gain popularity and grow in post-industrialized societies where “post-material” attitudes are widespread, and in addition deemed important when casting a vote (Jupskås 2013 p. 132). The analysis Jupskås presented in his article implied that in terms of the attitudes and priorities held by voters before the parliamentary election of 2013 in Norway, the Norwegian Greens focus on environmental issues, equality and global justice would be in the party’s favor (Jupskås 2013 p. 135). Seeing as the Norwegian Greens only won one seat in parliament last year, and consequently has not had the same width or depth of experience as its Swedish counterpart, the party is at a different phase. In addition, having two parties possibly in the way of its success can be damaging. Balancing the green objectives and the possibilities in parliament, leaning too much one way or the other may both cost them voters, either of the new or loyal kind.
In conclusion, although similar and often used to form a comparative perspective on various issues, the history of Sweden and Norway has led to a quite different context for the environmental movement, in both organizations and political parties. This context within which the environmental movement, and the green parties specifically operate within, has impacted at what times the green parties were established as well as in what time they enjoyed success. This context has also led to various degrees of success for the Swedish Green Party and the Norwegian Greens. The parties were founded seven years apart, and during the time in which both parties excited, the Swedish Green Party has no doubt been more successful. This is illustrated by the party’s continuous representation in the Riksdag since 1994 (Jupskås 2013 p. 132), all the while The Norwegian Greens only last year (2013) won one seat in the parliamentary election.
There seems to be mainly two aspects which have made an important impact and led to the context being quite different for the two green parties in Norway and Sweden; namely the political context in terms of already existing parties, and secondly the countries’ experience with environmental issues. Nuclear power has been a huge concern in the electorate in Sweden, whereas nuclear power or other environmental issues has had low to no impact on the Norwegian population and consequently, the impact of a party mainly focusing on environmental issues and its green profile has been low in the Norwegian electorate. Environmentalism has had a more significant impact in Sweden than in other countries, Norway included, (Jamison et al 1990 p. 13) and this fact has played a part in the success of the Swedish Green Party.
The corporative aspect is much the same in both countries, however, the electoral system and in the case of the Norwegian Greens, already existing parties with an environmental profile made it difficult to breach the electoral threshold and win seats. As previously stated the opposite was the case in Sweden, where voters were lacking in political alternatives with an environmental focus (Aardal 1990 p. 150).
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