Support for Norway’s Progress Party rose this month, with one pollster ranking it the country’s biggest political group, as voters backed its anti-immigration stance less than six months before parliamentary elections. While governments in other parts of Europe lose support as voters condemn their handling of the financial crisis, Norway’s Labor government is struggling in polls after it tried to push through laws banning blasphemy and allowing police women to wear the hijab. The laws were withdrawn after a public outcry. Justice Minister Knut Storberget, whose ministry issued the proposals, has since gone on sick leave. “People are losing their jobs, the economy seems to be going into recession but people are focusing on these issues instead,” said Torkel Brekke, professor of culture studies and oriental languages at the University of Oslo. “It tells you how important issues of identity are to small European countries and how people feel insecure about immigration.” The Progress Party has support from 27.9 percent of voters in a Norstat poll published in the Vaart Land newspaper today, compared with 22.1 percent in the 2005 election. Backing for the ruling Labor Party fell to 31.7 percent from 32.8 percent in 2005. The poll, which had a margin of error of 2-3 points, was conducted March 17-22 and based on interviews with 1,000 people. A survey by Opinion, published by news Web site Hegnar on March 18, gave the Progress Party a backing of 30.9 percent after gaining 6.4 percent in March, making it the country’s largest party.
The Metropolitan Police has agreed pay £60,000 for violent attacks of police officers on a British Muslim. The high court had decided the officers were guilty of punching, kicking and throttling Babar Ahmad and of mocking his Islamic faith. Ahmad had been arrested in 2003 and again in 2004 and is accused of raising funds for terrorism. So far, the accusations have not been proven.
The case took five years to reach a court decision. It had earlier been investigated by the Independent Police Complaints Commission (IPCC) and its predecessor, the Police Complaints Authority, who found the charges were unsubstantiated. It appears that the officers involved have been accused of 77 other cases in which they assaulted African-British and Asian men, but documented evidence on these allegations was “lost” before they could be treated in court. Meanwhile, Babar Ahmad is awaiting decision on the charges against him and whether or not he could be extradited to the US, who had requested his 2004 arrest.