Overwhelming ‘no’ in referendum over North Norway merger
As much as 87 percent of the voters opposed the government’s merger of Finnmark with neighboring Troms County. Turnout was 58 percent, results from the vote show.
The referendum, held on the 14th of May, was initiated and organized by the Finnmark County administration.
«Once again people in Finnmark have stood up for their opinions [and] shown that they are not afraid of speaking up against the Government when necessary,» says County Council leader Raghild Vassvik.
«This is a powerful message from the people of Finnmark to the Government and the Storting: we do not want this forced merger,» she underlines.
The merger between the two Arctic regions is part of a regional reform introduced by the country’s government and approved by the Storting, the national parliament.
Vassvik, a representative of the Labor Party, first signed an conciliatory agreement with neighboring Troms County, according to which Finnmark would get responsibilities for several policy areas of key importance in Arctic governance, including international cooperation and climate.
That, however, was not enough for the regional legislators, who demand that Finnmark remains a separate region.
Ragnhild Vassvik argues that Finnmark should not be governed by people from outside the region. «The only think Finnmark wants is to continue to be governed by people from Finnmark,» she says.
«We have said what we think, now government must follow up.»
Vassvik now says that she will go to Oslo and officially deliver the result to Prime Minister Erna Solberg.
Solberg and her government has repeatedly underlined that the merger of Troms and Finnmark will proceed irrespectively of the result from the referendum.
The County of Finnmark has a population of about 75,000 living on a territory of 48,000 square kilometers. It is one of the sparsest populated areas in all of Europe. The proposed new Troms and Finnmark region would have a population of about 245,000 living on a 75,000 square kilometer territory.