They survived Anders Breivik’s deadly attack against the party he blamed for the “Islamisation” of Norway, but the three young Labour politicians elected this month worry that the multicultural society they treasure could now be under threat from the incoming right-wing government.
Elections last week ousted the Labour Party after eight years in power, with the victorious Conservative Party now crafting a coalition government which will for the first time include the anti-immigration Progress Party, which won 16 per cent of the vote.
Progress Party politicians insist they are not xenophobic, but during election campaigning the deputy party leader presented a paper which proposed halving the immigrant population and dramatically slashing the number of asylum seekers in Norway.
“The Progress Party has been very clear that they want to challenge international law and human rights regarding immigration,” said Stine Renate Håheim, 29, who survived Breivik’s slaughter on Utoya Island two years ago by leaping into the cold fjord. “If the Progress Party is included in the government it will be the most right-wing government in Europe and that frightens at least me.”
Ms Håheim was one of 33 members of the Labour Party youth wing who survived Utoya, and on Monday she won a second term. The two other Utoya survivors who won seats – Åsmund Aukrust, 28, and Fredric Holen Bjørdal, 23 – will enter parliament for the first time.
But it is bitter-sweet. “We are disappointed that [Labour] lost and the disappointment is even stronger because we know that probably the Progress Party will be in government for the first time,” Mr Aukrust told The Independent. He fears that their presence will lead to a “harsher debate” on immigration.
“We think the multicultural society has made Norway a better country to live in and you will find several politicians from the Progress Party who have a totally different view and now they might have key positions in the Norwegian government,” he said.
After the July 2011 attacks, Norway’s political parties united in their condemnation of Breivik’s actions, which killed eight people in a bomb attack in Oslo and 69 others at the Labour Party youth camp on Utoya. Breivik was intent on wiping out the future of a party he blamed for the “Islamic invasion” of Norway.
Mr Bjørdal, Ms Håheim, and Mr Aukrust are keen to stress that they see no link between Breivik and the Progress Party, which counted him as a member until he left in 2006 because he found their policies too liberal.
But that does not mean they are happy to see them in government. Ms Håheim sees a silver lining, however: “In the young population this (anti-immigration message) is a message that people don’t like, there is a much stronger opposition against those kinds of fearful messages, so that gives us hope,” she said.