Opinion: Erna Solberg has been fined for breaching corona rules. Here’s why that is important

Erna Solberg sadPhoto: Terje Pedersen / NTB

It is not often that a sitting Prime Minister, in Norway, is in trouble with the police. That is exactly what has happened with PM Erna Solberg who was fined NOK 20.000 for her part in breaching national corona infection rules. In an era where democracies worldwide are under strain, this decision is important for the public trust in the rule of law and equality before the law.

Investigation findings better late than never

Much has been written about the now-infamous family birthday celebrations of Erna Solberg and her family in February. Dinner in a restaurant and sushi in an apartment hardly sound like the beginnings of a political scandal.

However, when the participants involve the Prime Minister and her family, breaching her own government’s measures, which she has helped shape, direct, and legislate, then the beginnings of a scandal appear.

The police decided to launch an investigation through a combination of alerts from the general public and reporting from Norwegian Broadcasting (NRK). The investigation, which was originally supposed to take a week, has now concluded. The verdict: Prime Minister Erna Solberg was guilty of breaching national coronavirus infection measures and fined NOK 20,000.

Independent fourth estate and general public fear no one

Putting the seemingly long delay (both the Prime Minister and her husband were interviewed within days of the investigation being launched) aside, the police should be applauded for conducting this investigation. It shows, quite clearly, that no one, regardless of who they are, or which high office they hold, is above the law here in Norway.

What is admirable about the police’s decision to investigate is that they did so with the help of a still (nominally) state-owned media organization and the general public.

In other countries, perhaps, the media would have chosen to sit on the story due to political pressure, and the general public would have thought twice about dobbing in their own Prime Minister, however, this was not the case here in Norway.

Norway's laws
Norway’s laws .Photo: Terje Pedersen / NTB scanpix

Fine shows why Norway is 2nd in worldwide rule of law

The police are not known for their dramatic flair but the timing of the announcement of penalizing a sitting Prime Minister has a touch of it. The investigation was concluded in the same week that Norway was voted 2nd best, in the world, in terms of rule of law, according to the World Justice Project.

The results were based on respondents’ own experience with the rule of law. That a sitting Prime Minister should be, and is, held accountable, under the rule of law, for her actions, shows the strength of Norway’s legal, political and judicial systems.

In an era of perceived democratic stagnation and malaise, the rise of authoritarianism is a worrying trend. The United States, Brazil, Hong Kong, and, closer to home, both Poland and Hungary, have all seen their democracies under severe attack and strain. There is little public trust in institutions in these countries. Contrast that with Norway, a country where a sitting Prime Minister can be fined for the breach of a law which she helped to create.

Public trust, in Norway, of its democratic and political institutions, will only be heightened by the rule of law being applied equally to all. The independent manner in which the police, the media, and the general public all played their part in holding the Prime Minister accountable is why this NOK 20,000 fine is actually worth so much more.

The opinions expressed are those of the author and are not held by Norway Today unless specifically stated.

Source: #Norway Today / #NorwayTodayNews

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