Current FrP leader Sylvi Listhaug and former party leaders Siv Jensen, Terje Søviknes and Hans Andreas Limi are participating in the FrP national meeting this weekend. Photo: Fredrik Varfjell / NTB
Half a century has passed since Anders Lange founded the protest party which is now called the Progress Party. In that time, the party has gone from being a rebel to a government party.
It is now 50 years since FrP’s predecessor, Anders Lange’s Party, was founded. This will be marked as it should be at this weekend’s national party meeting.
It was at a mass meeting at the Saga cinema on 8 April 1973 that Anders Lange founded the party that was then named Anders Lange’s Party for strong reductions in taxes, fees and public intervention.
Since then, the Progress Party has managed to bring down a bourgeois government, been through a harrowing dispute at the so-called “Dolkesjø” national meeting, entered government, appointed a total of seven ministers of justice (including a substitute) and left the same government.
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Today, FrP is an established party, their group is one of the largest in the Storting. They are no longer a small, hot-tempered rebel.
At the same time, FrP feels that other, smaller parties in the “other category” are taking over exactly that role and that they are losing voters to such parties.
INP, Konservativet and the Norwegian Democrats are the main contenders in the “rebellious” segment.
Among some voters on the right, FrP is often criticised for a partly politically correct position on climate policy and for a weak immigration policy. The party has been complicit in a number of controversial, international agreements that were entered into during the time it was in government with Erna Solberg as prime minister.
The FRP believes it has shifted the debate
Siv Jensen, who was party leader from 2006 to 2021, believes Norwegian society would have looked different without FrP.
The Progress Party has had an invaluable influence on Norwegian politics throughout its 50 years, says Jensen, who is naturally a guest at the party’s national meeting this weekend.
FRP has contributed to moving the debate and has contributed to a developing society. The entire immigration policy has shifted as a result of the Progress Party. Tax policy, fee policy and the way we think about transport solutions, she continues.
No more rebels
The party has been through a long journey, says Jensen
It has been a long time since the Progress Party was a rebel. The Progress Party was established, if not as a rebel, then at least a party that wanted to rebel. But in modern times, they have also taken responsibility, taken seats and governed the country, says the ex-party leader.
Jensen’s predecessor, Carl I. Hagen, also believes that the FRP is a more polished party today than in the past – but not without a sting.
We are just as rebellious, but now have a more streamlined organisation. We now have a lot of talented people where we used to have only a few – let’s say non-traditional people who had us labelled village idiots and a bit of everything else, says Hagen, who was Frp leader from 1978 to 2006.
Wants governmental power again
Another important difference is that in modern times the FRP has shown that it is a party that can sit in government, continues Hagen.
We can still become a leading government party as long as we have the same persistence that has been shown at the national meeting, which is a mixture of rebelliousness and having concrete solutions, says the FRP nestor.
However, it may be difficult for FrP to find its way into a bourgeois coalition where parties such as Venstre and KrF will also be present.
FRP has performed a political watchdog role for increased freedom, sums up party leader Sylvi Listhaug. She says the party has succeeded in moving Norwegian politics citing examples such as removing regulations for opening hours and getting rid of monopoly arrangements. It has given freedoms that today’s young people take for granted, she points out.
The Progress Party’s role has always been to fight for increased power and freedom for the individual and reduce power for politicians and bureaucrats: We have challenged established truths and taken on all the difficult debates that other parties have not wanted, says Listhaug.
She points out that FrP has contributed to building roads like never before, has tightened immigration policy, reduced healthcare queues and removed inheritance tax, to name a few.
Much work still remains and therefore FrP will continue to fight hard to increase people’s freedom of choice, reduce taxes and fees, use all positive efforts to remove the health queues and be the guarantor of good and dignified care for the elderly, says Listhaug.
In the last year, the FrP has fluctuated quite strongly in the opinion polls, with ratings in the 15-25 range at its best. Single-digit numbers have also been seen.
No major “Sylvi effect” has been seen after the change of party leader, despite the fact that Sylvi Listhaug appears as a strong and clear leader for the party.
Many had expected that the FrP, as a traditional protest party, would get more out of its role in opposition, in a time of much dissatisfaction directed at the government.
Neither electricity prices, fuel prices nor the situation in the healthcare system have become issues that the FrP has managed to take clear ownership of and score particularly highly on.