For Turid Telebond, a Longyearbyen resident for the past 40 years, it was inevitable this would be an election of change. But she faced a dilemma where none of the likely outcomes were entirely satisfying.
Telebond, while not specifying her choice, said she voted for a new party in this election because two of the four parties – the Liberals and Greens – were appearing on it for the first time (while the Non-Partisan and Konsek-venslista parties were dropped).
“This year it was very tricky because all of the number ones of the parties, except for the Labor Party, they are not familiar with the local council,” she said, noting she feels experience is important with the crisis the city is facing.
At the same time, a pre-election poll showing Labor was set to win a dominant nine seats of the 15 on the Longyearbyen Community Council wasn’t what Telebond wanted either.
“I’d prefer it if none of the parties get a majority because that means they need to cooperate,” she said. “But I think if one party gets a majority they will cooperate because the situation in Longyearbyen is so serious.”
Ultimately, Telebond, said, her choice came down to “the party that I think will do the best work in terms of having to do with the commercial side of Longyearbyen and getting new people in Longyearbyen.”
Labor ended up faring worse than expected, winning only five seats compared to seven during the previous election in 2011. The Conservatives also won five seats (a gain of two), the Liberal Party won three and the Green Party two.
A total of 1,003 votes were cast in the election, with the 61 percent turnout rate exceeding the 56.6 percent turnout in 2011.
But many, like Telebond, found themselves somewhat at odds with the default choices on the ballot. Many said they voted for individual candidates they supported rather than for candidates as ranked in a straight party line.
Magnus Lustig, a kindergarten teacher who has lived in Longyearbyen for the past four years, said he normally aligns with the equivalent of Labor Party in his homeland of Sweden, but voted for Green Party candidates in the local council election because of concerns similar to Telebond’s.
“I think it’s important in the debate about the politics and I don’t want one party to get the main majority,” Lustig said. “I think it’s important they talk to the others.”
Rune Vidvei, a snowmobile mechanic who has lived in Longyearbyen since 2012, said while he feels optimistic about Longyearbyen’s future, his vote was influenced in part by a desire to see coal mining continue in Longyearbyen. In addition, he’d like to see the next council address cost-of-living issues.
“It would be nice if rental prices were better because they are very high,” he said.
Rent rates were also a concern for Aud Andersen, a Basecamp Spitsbergen employee who has lived in Longyearbyen for 16 years. He said he voted for Green Party candidates because “”I think they’re an important voice in the community” and, like some other voters, said wanted an expected Labor Party majority to be challenged.
“I haven’t been a very active member of other parties in the past,” he said.