From left to right, Norway is shaken by an earthquake of political scandals
If you’ve been following the news in Norway, you might have noticed that there are a lot (really a lot) of articles in the past few months about politicians doing stuff that makes them resign or be sacked. In early July this year, Bjørnar Moxnes, leader of the party Rødt (far left) was caught on camera stealing a pair or two of designer sunglasses, and lost his job over it. Why? Because he lied about it and tried to cover it up. When the videos came out, it was too much for this country to handle, and he had to resign just before a big election that was going to be held in September.
Just after that, in end of July 2023, it was found that Ola Borten Moe, who was a minister of education and former minister of energy and petroleum had invested over 40,000 EUR in weapon manufacturer Kongsberg just before a giant deal with the Norwegian government. The problem? He was aware of the deal before everyone else since he had meetings with them and was part of the ruling government. He had to resign almost immediately and there is now an ongoing investigation for insider trading from Økokrim, the National Authority for Investigation and Prosecution of Economic and Environmental Crime.
Then came in the end of August, days from the election, the government’s Minister of foreign affairs’ Anniken Huitfeldt husband was also caught trading stock options that he might have had insider information. But that scandal was quickly overshadowed by a massive one. Erna Solberg, head of the Conservative Party and former Prime Minister for 8 years has a husband. It is important to mention that Erna Solberg has been the head of the Conservative Party for 19 years, and she is a favourite to be Prime Minister again at the next national election. She was voted most powerful woman of Norway during Corona, and is still considered one of the most powerful persons in Norway.
Now what is this scandal about? Her husband has apparently been buying and selling thousands (3640 to be precise) stock options while Solberg was Prime Minister. He invested a total of 12 million EUR over the years, and made a substantial amount of money too. This scandal has many layers.
The first layer is the lie, which could have turned a major election. The couple was asked to deliver the husband’s trading activities, and they took a long time to give them. Journalists found later that it would have taken the couple one hour to get, and they took much more time. During that time, a major election was held in the country, and the Conservative Party won many important cities by few votes. Like the city of Oslo for example. It is now proven the couple had the information, but waited for after the election to make it public.
The second layer is insider trading. Many trading activities of Finnes show that he knew about a certain amount of confidential information before everyone, and made money from it. For example he invested in so called “bear” stock options (don’t ask me what that is) just before the lock down for the pandemic. He also bought 70,000 shares of the mining company Nordic Mining just before Solberg’s government announced that the company would be authorised to dump toxic waste in a Norwegian fjord. Despite all this, Solberg is not stepping down. The catch here is that she is not in the ruling government, so who will fire her? There has just been a local election, which her party won, so she is holding on to power. It seems the only ones to be able to “fire” her are her own party, and they don’t seem to be wanting that. There is a reason to that, she is powerful, but also a brilliant politician who has managed not only to lead Norway for 8 years and has (or had) chances to make the party win again in 2 years for the next election.
The third layer of the scandal is nepotism and some are calling it corruption. Finnes was first represented by Elden, Norway’s most famous lawyer, whom we found out later, is an old family friend. It does not stop there. While she still was prime minister, she talked warmly on a public video about the shipping company Wallenius Wilhelmsen, while she knew her husband owned around 50,000 EUR in the company. A couple of weeks later, the company donated 30,000 EUR to the Conservative Party for the election. She then took actions that may have benefited both her husband and her party.
I think the most disturbing in this scandal is that Solberg is answering interviews with the world’s biggest calm, even when the lies and the manipulation come out. If she does not come down with all of this dirt, I am wondering what can be too much, it creates a feeling of impunity for her which is, some say, dangerous.
The parliament’s control committee is now looking at the case. Sindre Finnes is refusing to hand over the list of all the trading he did with dates and time. This makes it difficult for the control committee to assess whether Solberg is in a conflict of interest and which would have disqualified her while she was Prime Minister.
It is important to note that Norwegians often brag about their society which is trust-based, not like all the other societies and political scenes from other countries. The trust is getting thiner than ice in the spring, and the issue is that conspirationist theories are now blossoming about all Norwegian politicians and intellectual elite.
It seems Erna Solberg still sees herself as the next Prime Minister, since she already told the press her husband would not be allowed to do trading if she is elected again, and she is ready to get her party to pay a babysitter for him. Oh wow, cannot wait for that chapter in Norwegian politics.