Norwegian politicians face voter suppression allegations

Monday, September 14, 2009

A viral election joke has landed several politicians in hot water as Norway goes to the polls to elect its parliament today. A hoax message turning voters away from polling stations is circulating in digital media. The message was also passed on by politicians, who have used social media like Twitter and YouTube to interact with the voters during the campaign. The targeted party is not laughing, and is warning that the activity could be seen as voter suppression.

"Due to full polling stations, Progress Party voters should send their vote by SMS [Standard Modular System] with shortcode FRP to 2009" That message, and variations of it, was the joke circulating in social media such as Facebook and Twitter or by mobile phone messages.

Norway has taken significant steps towards e-government, such as a trial letting pre-calculated tax returns be filed by SMS. In this context, the General Secretary of the Progress Party, Geir Mo, said that the message was "sabotaging democracy", because the damage would be done even if just one person believed the message. Kjell Ingolf Ropstad, one of the politicians who passed the message on, refused to apologize for doing it.

The main issue in the election has been whether voters should let the Labour Party dominated majority coalition government stay in power, or vote them out by voting for opposition parties.