No punishment for harassment at Sp

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Norway’s farmer-friendly Center Party (Senterpartiet, Sp) has decided to drop any further efforts into finding out who sexually harassed one of the party’s own former female leaders. None of the 10 men linked to the harassment, who include two mayors and former Oil Minister Ola Borten Moe, will be punished in any way, while Moe will be allowed to resume his duties as the party’s deputy leader whenever he’s ready to do so.

Current Center Party leader Trygve Slagsvold Vedum (left) has decided, along with other party board members, to simply drop attempts to find out who sexually harassed the party’s former leader, Liv Signe Navarsete (center). Ola Borten Moe (right), who was closely linked to the harassment and had challenged Navarsete’s authority when she was party leader, won’t face any punishment, nor will any of the other nine Center Party men involved. This photo was taken when Navarsete was still party leader and all three were ministers in Norway’s former left-center government. PHOTO: Senterpartiet

The decision comes even after news broke late Wednesday that yet another woman, the former head of the environmental organization Natur og Ungdom, has also been has sexually harassed by one of the 10 men, Stjørdal Mayor Ivar Vigdenes. He was working as a political adviser for Moe at the time, when Moe was Oil Minister in the former left-center government. Moe, moreover, had told Silje Ask Lundberg (who remains an environmental activist) that she was “over-reacting” to Vigdenes’ harassment. Vigdenes eventually apologized to Lundberg and she eventually dropped her complaint.

The Center Party’s central board huddled Thursday morning to decide what to do about the lastest harassment case, after police announced Wednesday that they would not launch an investigation of their own into who sent former Sp leader Liv Signe Navarsete a highly offensive and sexually explicit text message while Moe, Vigdenes and eight other Sp men were partying at a mountain cabin in Sweden two years ago. Navarsete had filed a complaint over the message with party leaders including Vedum at the time, but it was not pursued. Police felt they could not devote resources to pursue it now, especially after so much time had passed.

Powerful men avoid any consequences
Center Party leader Trygve Slagsvold Vedum has been criticized for his failure to deal with Navarsete’s complaint earlier, with several political commentators claiming he simply was reluctant to challenge the 10 men who form a powerful bloc within the party that’s often been split by power struggles. Now, with none of the 10 men admitting who sent the offensive message to Navarsete, Vedum claims party leaders will never find out who’s the guilty person.

That means none of the men will suffer any consequences for the bad behaviour of at least one of them. Vedum acknowledged that the message was highly obscene and unacceptable, but told Norwegian Broadcasting (NRK) that “we must conclude that we won’t find out who sent it.” He has refused to impose any form of collective punishment on the 10 men, or revoke any of their powerful positions within the party.

Vedum avoided questions as to whether he still has confidence in Moe, who’s been in trouble before and challenged Navarsete’s authority when she was party leader. “Ola Borten Moe was elected at the national party meeting, and it’s the meeting that gives us confidence,” Vedum told NRK. He noted how Moe voluntarily suspended himself last week pending the outcome of the harassment case: “Now that’s been rounded off and we can’t sanction Borten Moe when we don’t know who sent the message.”

Just want to get back to politics
Vedum and other party leaders now simply want to get back to work, at a time when their largest constituency (Norwegian farmers) are lobbying hard for increased subsidy and tariff protection. He said party board members had not discussed the other harassment case involving the party’s mayor in Størdal, Ivar Vigdenes.

“That’s a completely different case,” Vedum said, even though it involved two of the same men in the Navarsete case, Moe and Vigdenes. Moe has also been criticized for how he handled it at the time, and allegedly tried to intimidate Silje Ask Lundberg, whom Vigdenes had described as “sexy on TV.” He confirmed to Norwegian media this week that he “had a tone towards Silje (which she described as “overly informal and flirtatious”) that I shouldn’t have had. I took contact with her and apologized.”

Vedum also noted that Moe has apologized for the harassment of Navarsete on behalf of all the 10 men at the party two years ago, and believes Moe tried to flesh out the man behind it. Moe has firmly denied he sent the message himself or was behind it in any way.

Navarsete, meanwhile, remains on sick leave because of the strain of the past several weeks. She’s unhappy that none of the men involved in either harassment case will suffer any consequences.

“I don’t think the miserable handling of this by Trygve (Slagsvold Vedum) and Marit (Arnstad, the party’s leader in Parliament) will be repeated, but let this stand as a symbol for how a harassment complaint should not be handled,” Navarsete wrote on social media Thursday. “I have today landed in the same situation as many, many other girls and women, You complain, and nothing comes of it, apart from a mega-tough time for yourself.”

Arnstad, meanwhile, who also hails from the Trøndelag district that’s home to all the 10 men involved in the harassment cases, has remained noticeably silent on the issue all along. She’s clearly caught between her loyalties to her party fellows in Trøndelag and to other women and female colleagues. NRK reported that efforts to obtain a comment from her were unsuccessful.

newsinenglish.no/Nina Berglund