Norway’s conservative Progress Party is having another bad week. After defending their handling of criminal sexual misconduct charges filed against a top party official last week, party leader Siv Jensen and her colleagues now face two more cases of sexual harassment, one of which also involves minors.
Jensen, meanwhile, has softened her defensive tone from last week and admits she should have shown more humility in dealing with the serious nature of the charges filed against her former trusted adviser and party colleague Trond Birkedal. She opted to attack the media for its coverage of the case, and insisted until the middle of this week that she and the party’s secretary general Geir Mo acted in accordance with party procedures.
Now, after listening to criticism from within her own party, Jensen appears more remorseful. She told reporters on Wednesday that she no longer is so sure she’s “done everything right,” and “lies thinking about it every night.” She stressed that she’s told the truth all along, but concedes she “apparently should have followed the case more closely” when allegations about Birkedal first emerged two years ago.
After a meeting with party members on Wednesday, Jensen said “they gave honest impressions of what they have felt during the past week.” She said party officials will now review their procedures, not least because “these kinds of cases are difficult, and we must learn from them for the future.”
New harassment cases loom
She may not have known then that two more cases involving alleged sexual misbehaviour by party fellows were erupting. In the central Norwegian county of Møre og Romsdal, two teenage girls from the party’s youth organization have filed complaints about a local municipal politician from the party who allegedly has harassed them. The leader of the youth group calls the case “tiring and noisy,” and the politician in question has apologized to the girls.
On Thursday, another case of sexual misbehaviour hit the headlines in the nearby mountainous county of Sogn og Fjordane. A woman in the party’s chapter at Eid allegedly was sexually harassed by a high-profile male member of the party, who also allegedly offered political appointments in return for sexual services.
‘Not a good day’
Frank Willy Djuvik, county leader for the party, said the latest case landed in his regional office in Ålesund but it wasn’t forwarded to higher authorities in the party, in defiance of standard procedure.
Both the male offender and the woman are adults, reports Norwegian Broadcasting (NRK), and the alleged offenses occurred as long as five years ago. The man involved strongly denies the charges filed against him within the party, and said he is considering filing police charges against the woman.
“I’m being surprised by new cases every day, it seems,” Per Arne Olsen, depute leader of the party, told NRK. “And every time I have to go into the (broadcasting) studio and answer for other things than the party’s politics, it’s not a good day for me.”