Historic win: Norway elects first Somali deputy leader

OSLO, Norway (Caasimada Online) – In a groundbreaking moment for Norwegian politics, Marian Hussein, a Somali-born refugee, was elected as the deputy leader of the Socialist Left Party (SV), defeating the pre-vote favorite, Lars Haltbrekken, during the party’s national convention.  

Hussein garnered 114 votes, while Haltbrekken received 101. 

The triumph came as a pleasant surprise for Hussein, who had modest expectations. In an interview with NRK, she expressed her gratitude, saying, “It’s overwhelming.  

It’s an enormous trust that I’m excited to manage on behalf of the community.” 

Hussein’s journey to leadership

Hussein arrived in Norway as a 10-year-old refugee from Somalia. Before entering politics, she worked in the healthcare sector and at the Norwegian Labour and Welfare Administration (NAV).  

Elected to the Parliament in 2021, she represents Oslo and serves as SV’s spokesperson for health policies. 

During the convention, Hussein emphasized her healthcare sector experience and minority background. She stated, “In politics, there are not many who look like me or have lived a life like mine.” 

Inspiring the multicultural youth

As a 36-year-old healthcare policy advocate with a background in nursing, Hussein’s presence in the party’s leadership is expected to boost diversity. She is the first Norwegian MP of African descent and the first to wear a hijab.

Hussein hopes her ascent in politics will inspire and motivate young people from diverse backgrounds to participate in Norway’s democracy. 

She asserts, “I think it will encourage more people to join our democracy and remember that Norway is a democracy that works, and we all must participate, both in elections and by organizing ourselves.” 

A new chapter for SV 

Kirsti Bergstø, a 41-year-old social policy advocate from Nesseby, Øst-Finnmark, was also elected as the new party leader during the convention.  

She succeeds Audun Lysbakken, who held the position for eleven years. 

Bergstø emphasized her commitment to change in her speech, saying, “I will do everything I can to ensure the change that people need in their lives now.”  

Despite the lack of a dedicated climate policy specialist in the new leadership trio, she also expressed confidence in the party’s continued commitment to a green and just transition. 

A tale of two candidates

Lars Haltbrekken, the 52-year-old former leader of both the Nature and Youth and the Norwegian Society for the Conservation of Nature organizations, highlighted his long-standing commitment to climate and environmental issues during the convention.  

He stressed the importance of renewable energy, nature conservation, and indigenous rights while firmly opposing human rights violations. 

Despite losing the deputy leadership election, Haltbrekken’s experience and dedication to environmental issues will continue to be an asset to the party. 

Looking ahead 

The newly-elected leadership faces the challenge of the upcoming local elections. Bergstø is determined to start the “real work” of securing red and green majorities across Norway. 

As the Socialist Left Party enters a new era with a diverse and determined leadership, the future of Norwegian politics can gain from the inclusion and representation of different voices and perspectives.