Hadia Tajik has become the first casualty of Norway’s still-new Labour-Center government. She announced her resignation as the government’s minister in charge of labour and inclusion on Wednesday, after ongoing questions around her misuse of housing benefits “overshadowed” the government’s work.
“I’m sorry that I have made mistakes and disappointed many,” Tajik, who’s long been a rising star in the Labour Party, said at a press conference in Oslo Wednesday afternoon. “I apologize for not handling this better. It’s my mistake.”
She confirmed that she’ll send in extra tax payments to cover the undue advantage she enjoyed from living in an all-expenses-paid government apartment when she was first hired as a political adviser to an earlier minister 15 years ago. She’ll also resign the ministerial post to which she was appointed by Prime Minister Jonas Gahr Støre just last fall, which their Labour Party won the national election in September.
Støre has accepted her resignation, handed in, she said, because local media attention and questions about her past benefits were “overshadowing” the government’s work. He said he personally still had confidence in her, and she’ll continue as depute leader of the Labour Party. She can also return to her seat in Parliament, at a salary of around NOK 1 million a year.
She’s been under pressure since newspaper VG revealed tax irregularities last month. That led to lots of questions, also from the leaders of three of Norway’s largest labour organizations, who apparently weren’t satisfied with the answers they got. Tajik, educated as a lawyer, wouldn’t directly answer questions about whether the trade union leaders had sought her resignation.
She insisted that she mostly wanted the government to be able to continue “important” work on labour reforms, at a time when the entire nation is also concerned and distracted by Russia’s invasion of Ukraine. Tajik herself said that when there’s suddenly a war going on not far from Norway, it wasn’t right to spend time and energy on her past mistakes and fate.
She actually admitted to “a string of mistakes” that were “unleashing many questions now.” It was better, she concluded, to step down and let someone else carry on as leader of the labour ministry. Asked whether she broke any laws, she responded “No, I don’t think so.”
Her decision to continue in her role as elected deputy leader of the Labour Party was already being challenged as well Wednesday night, with several Labour mayors around Norway calling for her resignation. “It’s okay to have various opinions about that,” Tajik told Norwegian Broadcasting (NRK). She still has the support of Prime Minister Støre, who said he both “respected and supported” her decision to resign as one of his ministers. There was no immediate word on her replacement.