Norway: Breivik survivors stand for election

Vegard Groeslie Wennesland, a survivor of the shooting on Utoeya island, discusses politics with a voter in Oslo. Picture: Reuters
Vegard Groeslie Wennesland, a survivor of the shooting on Utoeya island, discusses politics with a voter in Oslo. Picture: Reuters
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ON A sunny day in Oslo, Vegard Groeslie Wennesland, a survivor of the shooting at the Labour Party’s youth camp on Utoeya ­island, gives out roses and discusses politics with shoppers.

The 29-year-old is hoping to be elected to parliament in September, along with 26 others who survived the attack by ­Anders Behring Breivik on 22 July 2011.

Mr Wennesland barricaded himself with others in a cabin and hid under a bed while Breivik shot dead 69 people hours after planting a car bomb outside the prime minister’s office in central Oslo, killing eight.

“Someone tried to kill me for what I believed in. So I am going to fight for it,” Mr Wennesland said of his reasons for running for office for Labour. “It is taken for granted that we can freely do politics. It should not be.”

It is the first election since the attacks but the number of young candidates is not unusual. Norway has a tradition of involving young people in politics.

The 27 survivors who have been picked from the AUF youth wing of the Labour party to run are expected to be different to previous generations.

The attacks appear to have affirmed the ideas of AUF members’ confidence in standing up for their views, which are traditionally more left-leaning than the rest of Labour. Usually, once elected, they embrace the more mainstream views of the rest of the party. But this generation is expected to stay faithful for longer to different policies.

“The 22 July generation is a very unique generation within the Labour Party. Their ideas have been tested in a way that no generation since the Second World War in Norway has,” said Labour politician Gunn Karin Gjul.

The main disagreement with the wider labour party is on oil. – AUF would like to shield some parts of Norway’s continental shelf.

The branches also differ on immigration. AUF wants a more liberal policy compared to many in the party. Breivik targeted the AUF camp because he wanted to stop immigration from Muslims into Norway and he saw AUF as a barrier to this.

The survivors have won respect from senior Labour politicians for staying true to their beliefs.

They could have questioned why Norway does not have the death penalty, why Breivik did not have tougher prison conditions or become bitter and aggressive, Ms Gjul said.

“Instead they reaffirmed their belief in democracy and the rule of law… They have the ability and personalities, they have a strong, passionate belief in ­democracy.”