Category Archives: Svalbard

ELECTION LIVEBLOG: Results, reactions and rants about the 2019 Longyearbyen Community Council vote from Stationen

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(BREAKING – “FINAL” MONDAY RESULTS: Labor (342 votes) and Liberal (333) parties finish in virtual tie, win five seats each; Conservative (184) and Progressive (126) parties each win two seats, Green Party (98) wins one seat. Makeup of next majority is murky. Official results to be released Tuesday. See details after jump)

Welcome to Stationen, where candidates and politicos are gathered for the results of the 2019 Longyearbyen Community Council vote. This liveblog began when the polls closed at 8 p.m. and will post happenings as they happen, so to speak, in reverse chronological order (in other words, those just wanting to skim the top of this for the latest numbers can do so without wading through the mad wordiage further down).

Emphasis: Tonight’s tally is likely to be preliminary, with full official results released tomorrow. But barring tight margins and unexpected alliances (both of which happened last time), tonight’s results should indicate who the leaders of Longyearbyen will be for the next four years.

Bang the box below for all of this evening’s updates…

NORWAY’S 2020 BUDGET UNVEILED: Svalbard gets more for avalanches and research, less for ‘normal’ government stuff

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It might be said Norway’s government is now giving Svalbard lots of change come budget time every year, as next year’s proposed spending plan continues to increase funding for emergency-related expenses such as avalanche protection and large-scale shifts in society such as an emphasis on scientific research.

But the government is being more frugal with everyday expenses, reducing slightly the allocation to Longyearbyen’s municipal government and rejecting upgrade requests such as an energy conservation plan for the town’s mostly coal-fueled power supply.

ELECTION 2019: Residents showing up steadily to select new Longyearbyen Community Council; voting continues until 8 p.m. tonight

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Voters showed up steadily Sunday afternoon, the first of the two-day Longyearbyen Community Council election, with polls open today at Kulturhuset from 10 a.m. to 8 a.m.

ELECTION 2019 – LAST STANDS: Parties and candidates out in force with fliers and swag a day before vote; here’s the ‘unfiltered’ version of their pitches to voters

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Voters found themselves facing a truly difficult choice considering the city’s chilly situation: get warmth from waffles from the incumbents, a head/neck scarf from their main opposition or coffee from the kingmakers?

Or they could rough it either with the folks most inclined embrace nature naturally or the newcomers seeking to be naysayers.

All five political parties on the ballot gathered in front of Svalbardbutikken on Saturday to make last-minute pitches before the Longyearbyen Community Council election Sunday and Monday. The three parties with the most current members (Labor, Conservative and Liberal) set up tables with food and/or swag to hand out along with campaign brochures, while the Green and Progress parties opted for the simpler approach of members merely handing out their literature.

ELECTION 2019: These folks want to lead a town that’s in meltdown, so it’s wise to ask what the hell they’re thinking

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The left-leaning incumbents are proud of presiding over four disastrous years. The Greens are OK with coal mining. The “anti-immigrant” party says they’re offering the strongest embrace of foreign residents.

Plus there’s the Conservatives who probably should have been in charge the past four years and the Liberals who kept that from happening by opting for a bit of legal bribery from those left-leaning incumbents.

One of those five parties – or some combination of them – is going to rule the town after Monday. As the contrasts and ironies above show, party names and general platforms aren’t always consistent with what voters from mainland Norway may be familiar with, to say nothing of those from other countries.

EXPANDING THOSE PERSONAL BOUNDARIES: 3rd annual Smak Svalbard allows folks of all tastes under big tent – and beyond

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Yeah, there’s an election with a lot of divisive issues starting Sunday, but until then people of all persuasions are being invited into the big tent to support a party based on that unquestioningly universally supported platform known as eating.

Which isn’t to say there isn’t a wide variety of candidates ranging from a bus tour serving locally grown greens to a formal five-course king crab, or that some are controversial (sheep heads and whale, for starters) during the third annual Smak Svalbard festival. But such diversity also means the world’s northernmost food festival gets to expand its big tent offerings – literally, since the mentioned meals and many more events are taking place at locations around Longyearbyen between Thursday and Sunday.

‘STRONGEST GROWTH RECORDED SINCE 2009’: Longyearbyen and Ny-Ålesund population hits 2,379, up 121 during first half of 2019

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Population totals continue to be promising for those hoping Svalbard’s Norwegian settlements can thrive in a post-coal era, with the 121 new residents in Longyearbyen and Ny-Ålesund during the first half of 2019 representing the largest half-year increase since 2009, according to Statistics Norway.

The figures are less encouraging for the government’s stated goal of making Longyearbyen more of a “normal” Norwegian family community, as the latest figures show 36 percent of the 2,379 residents in the two settlements are foreigners – continuing a steady growth from the 14 percent in 2009 – and the ratio of single-person households remains far above the mainland’s. But Statistics Norway notes the influx of foreigners is slower so far this year compared to Norwegians.

MILITARY OR MEDIA – WHO’S THE AGENT PROVOCATEUR? Russia blasts report of its special forces in Svalbard as ‘fake news’

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One thing’s certain: somebody’s committing what is being called a “gross provocation” involving illegal military might in Svalbard. The question is whether it involves actual military – specifically, Russian special forces supposedly occupying Svalbard and mainland Norway recently – or the news organization falsely reporting the latest in a series of stories about simulated invasions of the archipelago.

RUSSIA EASILY CONQUERS SVALBARD, YET AGAIN: Had this been an actual invasion you wouldn’t be reading this since SvalSat and subsea communications were among targets

A daring, well-organized and tech-savvy mass of Russia military might asserted its vast superiority against its northern Norwegian neighbors by easily conquering the disputed territory of Svalbard

OK, in what’s become roughly akin to the latest release in a paperback techo-thriller series, that part of the narrative is predictable. So this year’s plot highlights achievements such as attacking the archipelago’s all-important communications facilities, keeping people here and helpful military folks elsewhere from being able to do much of anything useful.

CHARITY IS SUCH A BURDEN: Racers in hazmat suits, prison chains and other extras kick off month-long effort to help vulnerable women worldwide as part of national TV auction

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Berit Vasstrand wasn’t a prisoner trying to make a quick getaway (like that’d be possible with the ball and chain attached to her wrist over a full-body striped outfit). Instead, as an employee for Svalbard’s governor (but not, as one might guess, a police officer), she and some coworkers were out to help unknown women suffering elsewhere by taking on a challenge that might be dubbed Bureaucrats Bearing Burdens.