Ashamed politician draws support

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The Norwegian Member of Parliament caught visiting a bordello in Latvia over the weekend admits he “did something dumb” but will still take part in the parliament’s formal opening next week. He says he’s “still standing tall” and has been attracting quite a bit of support.

Bård Hoksrud, an MP for the Progress Party, hasn't been smiling much this week. PHOTO: Fremskrittspartiet

Bård Hoksrud, a 38-year-old MP for the right-wing Progress Party (Fremskrittspartiet, Frp), also says he plans to pay a fine of NOK 25,000 (about USD 4,500) for breaking a Norwegian law against buying sex. The law, passed by the parliament three years ago, applies both in and outside Norway and was part of an effort to crack down on aggressive street prostitution in Oslo at the time and curb human trafficking.

Advocates for prostitutes, however, have long warned the law simply moves prostitution indoors and is difficult to enforce. One organization representing the rights of prostitutes has said it feels sorry for Hoksrud, who has become the first known offender to be fined for buying sex.

The law has come under fire once again, but both Hoksrud and party official Per Sandberg admitted that it’s still a serious offense to break a law and Hoksrud was wrong in doing so. The Progress Party, along with the Conservatives, had voted against the law when it came up for debate in 2008, claiming it wouldn’t work, “but if a law is passed, it’s passed,” Sandberg told newspaper Aftenposten, and therefore must be respected.

Hoksrud, married with two children, has resigned from his posts within the party but will remain an MP because the constitution maintains that MPs are elected through their parties for four years with no allowance for resignation unless they become sick, qualify for welfare leave, join the diplomatic corps or become government ministers. Some have been granted leave to take on international jobs but otherwise MPs are committed for the full election period. That means Hoksrud can remain an MP at least until 2013.

He has publicly expressed shame and regret for buying sex in Riga, and foreign policy experts on Friday were noting that actions like his also can pose security risks. Getting caught at sex clubs or with prostitutes overseas can make politicians vulnerable to extortion from foreign spies, Jakub Godzimirski of the foreign policy research institute NUPI told Aftenposten.

Hoksrud’s exploits in Latvia were revealed by TV2, which had confronted Hoksrud with photos from the so-called “massage institute” he visited in Riga. TV2’s methods, unusual in Norway, were also being widely debated and generated more sympathy for Hoksrud. Neither he nor Sandberg know who tipped TV2 “or who wants to hurt me,” Hoksrud told NRK.

Sandberg said it would be “naive” to think other parties are immune from such exploits, but said he didn’t want to sound like he was whining. “We (the Progress Party) are just treated differently (by the media),” Sandberg said, “but we’re the reason for that ourselves, because we challenge the political establishment.”

In another current sex scandal involving a politician in Norway, the mayor of a township in Oppland County has been charged with having sex with an underage girl. He also has resigned all party duties while the case is under investigation, but neither his name nor his party affiliation have been revealed in the Norwegian media.

Views and News from Norway/Nina Berglund
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