Time to learn “Możesz głosować” and “Galite bolsuoti” !
2. april 2019
Jan Brøgger (Twitter: @janbrogger) is leader of Årstad Høyre. Vasan Singaravel is deputy leader of Årstad Høyre. Both are candidates for Bergen city council in 2019. Translated by the author from the Norwegian original in Bergens Tidende, April 2nd 2019.
BT criticizes the right-wing parties on March 23rd for not having any immigrants in a secure places for the city council election. The truth is more complex than just a simple count.The main problem is that immigrants do not participate, and partly do not trust the Norwegian political system. We must all do something about this.
Immigrants are less engaged in Norwegian politics, both in elections and as elected representatives. The turnout is only 29% for foreign nationals, and still 40% for immigrants with Norwegian citizenship. We have high confidence in the political system, but we must work to bring in the immigrants.
Trusting the system takes many years. Historical numbers show that political participation takes about a generation for immigrants. We should therefore be happy for all Vietnamese, Tamils and others who are now participating. But can we wait for a generation?
The main problem in the parties we know of is few active immigrants. We have taken this seriously in Bergen Høyre, and since 2015 we have had a international voter outreach committee. Politicians have many interests. Ours is international voter outreach. We are teaching Bergen Høyre to say "Galite bolsuoti" and "Możesz głosować". It's Lithuanian and Polish for "You can vote". The largest group of immigrants in Bergen are EEA immigrants since 2004. Thousands of these are entitled to vote in Bergen in 2019, but do not know it. If you want a stronger political Norway, inform your Polish or Lithuanian neighbor that he can vote!
The nomination processes are complicated. Direct quotas of immigrants in nominations would be harmful. The ordering on the election list is not the only thing that matters. Do people know that personal votes (crosses) on the list are crucial to who gets into the city council? It appears that people are not using the power that they have. Only 2-3% of Bergen Høyre’s voters give a personal vote (cross) to the typical candidate. If you want to send a signal, use your voting power with a cross.
People are complicated - immigrants are just one of the many labels we can use. For example, we are proud of our "Polish" candidate Dr Grzegorz Gradek in 46th place, but he gets a little annoyed by our Norwegian label approach. Let people define themselves! We appreciate that BT focuses on important underrepresented groups in political Norway. But this requires a willingness to look at the causes, not only the results.