Norway ethics champion quits in second homes scandal

Parliament speaker used taxpayer-funded home despite having a residence nearby

The speaker of Norway’s parliament has resigned in a second homes scandal only weeks after taking office.

Eva Kristin Hansen, 49, was elected in October on a promise to foster greater trust in Norwegian politics.

But she has stepped down only weeks later after it emerged she had used a taxpayer-funded home in Oslo despite having a nearby residence.

Politicians are only eligible for “commuter” housing if they live more than a 40-kilometre drive from the parliament in Oslo.

Quote
I am not a crook. I did not mean to do anything wrong
Eva Kristin Hansen

Reports have emerged of several MPs misusing the system, in a parallel to the sleaze allegations which have been dominating UK politics.

Ms Hansen had listed her other address, 500km away in Trondheim, as her official residence — making her eligible for one of the 143 furnished apartments.

In 2014 she bought into her husband’s house in Ski, near Oslo, but she continued to live part-time in Trondheim and did not change her official address until 2017, when she gave up the apartment.

Ms Hansen, a Labour Party MP, said she did not intend to break the rules but acknowledged that the scandal had undermined her standing as speaker.

“I am not a crook. I did not mean to do anything wrong,” she told Adresseavisen newspaper after it broke the story. “I have not enriched myself. I have paid rent in Trondheim and paid down on a mortgage in Ski.”

But she said: “It is really bad that the president of the parliament herself has misunderstood the regulations.”

Sylvi Listhaug, parliamentary leader of the rival Progress Party, said Ms Hansen was right to step down.

“I have a great understanding that it is a difficult situation for her and her family, but there was no way out”, she said.

She expressed concern that the scandal would damage parliament’s reputation, in a country where trust in politicians is generally high.

“This is about trust in the population. We need someone with a clean slate to lead this further”, she said.

Ms Hansen has been an MP since 2005. When she became speaker, she promised to “restore confidence” in parliament after numerous misconduct claims.

She was appointed after an election in September which resulted in Jonas Gahr Støre becoming the country’s prime minister.

Updated: November 23rd 2021, 2:57 PM
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