Norway’s prime minister came under pressure to resign on Tuesday after an official report said police could have prevented a murder spree by far right militant Anders Behring Breivik last year that killed 77 people.
The attack, which involved a deadly bombing of central Oslo and a shooting spree at a teenage summer camp, shook the tiny nation of 5 million people, raising questions about the prevalence of far right views and the efficiency of the police.
On Monday, a government commission concluded that the country’s intelligence services and police had both made a series of crucial blunders that had allowed Mr. Breivik to carry out his crimes on July 22 2011 unimpeded.
“A more devastating verdict on our government could not have been made,” top-selling newspaper VG said on Tuesday, calling in a front page editorial for Jens Stoltenberg, the prime minister, to resign.
“The government failed to protect the people because of incompetence. It would be intolerable if this didn’t have personal consequences for the people involved,” it added.
Daily DN also laid the responsibility for the failings on the prime minister, saying he had delayed approving security measures that could have prevented the attack.
On Monday, Mr. Stoltenberg accepted responsibility for the report’s findings, saying he would stay on to implement its recommendations. He declined to comment on VG’s editorial.
The resignation call and criticism are a blow for Mr. Stoltenberg’s Labour Party - its coalition government is trailing the conservative opposition in the polls little more than a year before elections.
But fallout from the report is seen as unlikely to bring down the government, which has so far successfully guided Norway’s economy through Europe’s turbulence.
“A change in political colour at the top seems very unlikely at this stage,” said Bernt Aardal, a political analyst at the Institute for Social Research.
“But it is clear that this report is not going help the government or the coalition in the upcoming elections ... Their support is considerably weaker than at the last election.”
PRESSURE IN THE POLLS
The Labour party is under pressure. Although opinion polls show it and the Conservative Party enjoy support of around 30 per cent each, its political allies are faring less well.
While the centre-right Progress Party is polling over 15 per cent, Mr. Stoltenberg’s two smaller allies are both struggling to reach the five percent parliamentary threshold, giving the opposition a clear lead.
Lawyers for victims of the massacre directed their anger at the police, calling for heads to roll, while opposition leaders called for an extraordinary session of parliament to discuss the report.
Daily Dagsavisen called the commission report “merciless” and said there must be political consequences.
“It was very painful to hear that many people could have been saved,” the paper said.
Mette Yvonne Larsen, one of the lawyers representing Mr. Breivik’s victims at a 10-week trial earlier this year, said lives were lost because of police incompetence. Sjak Haaheim, another lawyer for victims, said the leadership structure of the police force had to be scrapped and reorganised.
Norwegians calmly sat through Mr. Breivik’s trial, which finished in June, and took to the streets in large numbers to condemn his crimes, while celebrating the open society he said he was trying to destroy.
The verdict in his trial is due to be announced on Aug 24. Mr. Breivik has admitted carrying out the killings, but the judges have yet to pronounce him sane or insane.
Prosecutors have called for him to be declared insane, but public opinion overwhelmingly favours he be deemed sane.