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Endless Sex Scandals in Norwegian Politics: Can the People in Power be Trusted?

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The Storting, the supreme legislature of Norway (Source: WikiCommons)

The #metoo campaign’s effect on the Norwegian politics has shown no mercy. Several politicians are being replaced after serious cases regarding sexual harassment. Here is a brief of the most severe cases.

1.    The Political Deputy Leader and the Young Women…

The #metoo campaign had been around for quite some time before it started presenting its marks on the Norwegian politics. It has shed light on devastating cases of sexual harassment from people in power, which makes the nation question their leaders. The first scandalous case brought into light is the one of Trond Giske, deputy leader of what used to be one of the country’s biggest parties, AP. He is accused of using his status to get away with and harass several younger women from AP’s youth party, AUF.

Former Norwegian politician, Trond Giske, who served as deputy leader of the Norwegian Labour Party, was forced to resign as a result of the so-called Giske affair (Source: WikiCommons)

Has been a Problem for Years

AP or “Arbeiderpariet”’s politics used to be compared with Labour. They had slightly started to recover after the devastating 2017 election when true chaos broke loose just before Christmas. There has been gossip regarding Giske and his unacceptable behaviour towards younger women for years. As early as in 2011, when the party secretary Raymond Johansen commented on his attitudes toward a 19 years-old AUF politician. This was several years before #metoo and the comments easily washed away.

When he was nominated to become the party’s deputy leader in 2015, the election committee asked him about the rumours. However, he denied all accusations and was unanimously elected to be AP’s deputy leader. The Norwegian newspaper Dagsavisen writes that if the election had been held today, after all the accusations, there is no way he would have been elected.  Giske has now publicly apologised for his behaviour and had to step down from his position as depudy leader the first week of January 2018.

2.    Parliamentary Deputy Leader sent Hardcore Porn to 14-year-old

A few days after Giske gave up his position as deputy leader of AP, the first big case for FRP or “Fremskrittspartiet”, a highly right winged party which currently is one of the three parties in government, was also brought into the light. FRP’s deputy leader and member of parliament Ulf Leirstein have according to NRK, the Norwegian government-owned radio and television public broadcasting company, sent several emails with pornographic images to young boys, one of them was 14 years old, and under the Norwegian age of consent. NRK possesses several copies, one is said to contain 44 hard pornographic pictures. Ironically, Leirstein has earlier suggested chemical sterilization as a suiting punishment for paedophiles.

Leirstein has publically recognized that his behaviour is unacceptable via facebook. Criminal expert Erling Husabø from the University of Bergen states that sharing porn with people under the age of 18 has a sentence up to 3 years in prison. An earlier member of parliament from FRP Jon Gåsvatn, argues that he confronted the leader of the party Siv Jensen, as early as in 2012, however she claims not to remember such a thing.

Sadly this was only the first of several accusations towards FRP:

  • Terje Søviknes got a 16-year-old girl drunk and had sex with her at the FRP’s youth party, FpU’s, annual meeting.
  • Trond Birkedal filmed young FpU boys in the shower.
  • Ulf Leirstein has not only sent hardcore porn to underage boys, but he is also accused of attempting to plan a threesome with a 15-year-old FpU politician.

Siv Jensen, the leader of FRP, claims to not have been aware of any of the cases mentioned above, and that she simply does not remember when other politicians have confronted her with the problems. The Norwegian newspaper Aftenbladet accuses her of lying and questions how her party is capable of what they call a “communal memory loss”.

3.    Parliamentary Party Leader and 17-year-old had Sex in a Field

This is an older case from 2008 now brought into the light. The leader of Venstre, Trine Skei Grande, one of the three parties in government, has admitted to having sex with a 17-year-old boy, when she was 38 years old, in a field after a party. The man, now 26, tells his story in an interview with the newspaper VG. The sex was consensual, which makes it possible to argue that this is not a story of harassment, it is simply embarrassing if nothing else, and it will hurt the nation’s trust in Grande.

Trine Skei Grande, a Norwegian politician and leader of the Liberal Party of Norway (Source: Flickr)

4.    Leader of Youth Party had Sex with Young Members

Norway’s biggest party, Høyre had by the end of January 25 accusations regarding sexual harassment, 10 of them is against earlier leader for their youth party Unge Høyre, Kristian Tonning Riise. He is accused of getting young members drunk and having sex with them. Also he has had several warnings before #metoo, the earliest one in 2013. Sadly, nor they were taken seriously until just recently. He resigned from his position as leader of Unge Høyre 10th of January 2018 after his behaviour came into the spotlight.

Democracy = They Still Hold Their Position in Parliament!

So, several of the politicians mentioned above have resigned from their positions in their Parties. However, the most severe cases still hold their position in parliament, even though they currently are on a “sick leave”.

-Trond Giske, the one who used his position to exploit young women,

-Ulf Leirstein, the one who sent hardcore porn and planned a threesome, and

-Kristian Tonning Riise, the one who slept with young members of his youth party,  all still hold their position in parliament.

This is because their responsibilities in Parliament is connected to Norway’s constitution. It is crucial for a functional democracy that their elected leaders cannot be pushed out of their positions. The prime minister has publically apologized and recognizes the betrayal from the political leaders. That being said, an apology is not enough, it is only a start. It is past due that the parties take responsibility for their members and finds a respectful way to remove these leaders from power.

Conclusion: Today, People Cannot be Trusted

Sadly, this is just a brief of the sex scandals in Norwegian politics these days, and it questions whether people in power can be trusted. It is certain that as long as these leaders still hold their position in parliament, the leaders in Norway cannot be trusted. The #metoo campaign sparked a movement that will not tolerate sexual harassment, beginning with the Giske case. Now, politics in Norway is having a long sought after spring-cleaning, bringing everything to the surface. It has proven that Norway is no Utopia after all. The country has lost its virginity to sexual harassment, there is no way back and regaining the trust in the Norwegian politicians will take years.

Hopefully, Norway is moving towards an end of the endless scandals. All three parties in government have been put in the spotlight for sexual harassment, which puts the political situation in the country at a crisis. It reflects a gruesome macho and blindly power driven culture, which makes it too easy to exploit status, and it has finally has been faced with at least some justice. My thoughts go out to all the victims of harassments where politicians have abused their power and taken advantage of them. The #metoo movement must continue to shed light on unacceptable behaviours independent from the status of the actor. This is so that hopefully, we can move towards a society that does not produce leaders that take advantage of their power, and also so that we are equipped to recognize these problems earlier.

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