The much-delayed resignation of Hadia Tajik as the Minister of Labor and Social Inclusion but not necessarily as Deputy Leader of the Labour Party shows that the Storting’s latest inhabitants are just as inept and/or corrupt as the previous bunch. The latest chapter in the “Commuting Housing Scandal” highlights the now seemingly common arrogant behavior and actions of Norway’s political class.
Tajik takes responsibility for her actions and resigns…sort of
For what appears like the millionth time, another member of the Storting has been caught up in a seemingly never-ending “commuter housing scandal.” Surely not again, right?
Albert Einstein, who knew a thing or two, once quipped that, “insanity is doing the same thing over and over again and expecting different results.” Surely this makes some members (and ex-members) of the Storting some of the most insane people in this country. They have consistently done the same thing over and over again (defraud taxpayers) and expected all these different results – no reaction from the press, no political blowback, no investigations, and no loss of trust or faith in them by the electorate.
This time saw the (somewhat) downfall of Hadia Tajik – who has resigned as Minister of Labour and Social Inclusion but bullishly refused to resign as Deputy Leader of the Labour Party (Arbeiderpartiet, AP). It is too soon to judge how this will go on to affect the rising star of the AP, one of the few women of color in a leadership role in a major Norwegian political party.
So just months after the last chapter, a new politician has been revealed to have abused a system that is taxpayer-funded – either by, as she claims, sheer ineptitude and oversights or, most likely, deliberately. Either way, it is not a good look for the freshly elected Støre government which was only just putting the controversy around the appointment of Jens Stoltenberg as Norges Bank’s next Governor behind them.
The roots of this scandal stretch back to 2006
Hadia Tajik faced the music on March 2 and announced that she would resign as the government’s Minister of Labour and Social inclusion after admitting she had “completely misjudged” the rules surrounding commuter housing from the 2006 – 2010 period.
Her case stretches back more than 15 years to December 1, 2006. This was the date that Tajik, then a political advisor, applied for commuter housing. She was then a student and lived in a dormitory but was registered at her parent’s house in Rogaland. On the first application for commuter housing, she stated she had no housing expenses. She was then told that she had to pay tax on the commuter housing she received.
The newspaper VG has revealed that 6 days AFTER this outcome, she submitted a new application where she was registered in a new location (a basement apartment) with a lease signed by her parent’s former neighbors.
A new application submitted, two apartments bought
Tajik then submitted a new application which saw her tax situation reverse. Her new living situation entitled her to tax-free commuter housing as she commuted to her childhood home in Rogaland (her parent’s home) where she had expenses. She has yet to provide any detailed information on what or how much these expenses were. Tajik was supposed to pay her first rent, for this basement apartment, on December 1, 2006, but VG claims revealed that she has never resided there.
What makes this situation even worse is that during this period – where she was living with her parents but receiving tax-free commuter housing – she bought two apartments, with her brother, and received between NOK 8.500 – 10.500 a month in rental income. She sold one apartment in 2010 and sold her stake in the other apartment to her brother that same year. After expenses, she claimed to only have made a small profit. When asked if she would have been able to afford to buy these apartments if she had not received tax-free commuter housing, Tajik offered no reply to VG.
The fact remains that Tajik received taxpayer-funded commuter housing based on the lease of an apartment she never lived in. During this time she invested in two apartments in Stavanger. That is, to put it in her words, quite a “misjudgment.”
Another “misjudgment” by a member of the Storting on commuter housing
Her case is both typical and atypical when compared to the other politicians caught up in, let’s call it what it is, defrauding the Norwegian taxpayer. It was only two months after the latest election that the newly elected President of the Storting, Eva Kristin Hansen (Ap), resigned as she fell “victim” to the same commuter housing rule “misjudgment.” This was just months after it emerged that Kjell Ingstad Ropstad, the then leader of the Christian Democratic Party (Kristelig Folkeparti, KRF) had committed similar sins to Tajik whereby he received commuter housing whilst being registered at his parents and renting out an apartment he owned.
It appears that regardless of political persuasion, many members of the Storting have become entangled in this scandal. Tajik, like Ropstad and Hansen, worked her way up to a position of leadership within the AP. Surely whoever does the vetting of potential leadership candidates should also resign as this “discrepancy” was, like the commuter housing law itself, either deliberately or ineptly overlooked.
Why is this scandal for her a tragedy for Norwegian politics?
What makes Tajik’s case different, and even more tragic, is that she is one of a rare breed in Norwegian politics: a young woman of color. The daughter of Pakistani immigrants, she is clearly exceptionally bright as she has holds two Master’s Degrees having studied Law and Human Rights at the University of Oslo and in England. As a jurist, an expert on law, even back in 2006, one would think that she was bright enough to understand, interpret and correctly apply the rules and regulations surrounding commuter housing.
Norway needs not only more women in politics, a recent Kommunal Report showed that 20% of municipalities in the country have never been governed by a female, but more women of color. Norway is a modern, diverse, and multicultural society, and, to an extent, this is simply not reflected in the halls of power nationwide.
Her partial resignation and tirade against the press shows arrogance
So having been faced with many questions since the news broke, Tajik has only partially taken responsibility and partially resigned. She is the first minister, in the Støre government, to resign her portfolio however she has decided to stay on as Deputy Leader. This outcome is utter nonsense. How can she have the confidence of her party, of her colleagues, and of the people that elected her, when she has been caught defrauding taxpayers.
What is also disturbing is that, instead of admitting she made a mistake, resigned, spent some time out of the spotlight, then slowly rebuilt her career, she went on a tirade against the media, much like a spoiled child. She accused Aftenposten, though traditionally center-right hardly a bastion of anti-left sentiment, of “scandalizing” the case and referred to the whole saga as “Aftenposten’s press scandal.” She has quite simply pushed the blame on some in the media thus freeing herself of any sort of actual responsibility for misjudgment and misapplication of the law.
With freedom of speech on the wane the world over (especially in Russia where recent anti-war protestors were locked up) and democratic values under attack (quite literally now in Ukraine) this is hardly the kind of tirade, against a free press doing their job and reporting the news, that a politician in a senior leadership role, in Norway, should be making.
Who will be the focus of the next chapter in this saga?
So as the dust settles on another sordid chapter in this neverending scandal, Tajik still bullishly will not resign from her leadership role in the AP. How this will affect her career long-term and promotion to the AP’s top job remains to be seen. However, a once rising star of Norwegian politics, a politician that represents and reflects the diversity and multiculturalism of modern Norway, has seen her trajectory severely altered by being caught up in a scandal that was so easy to avoid.
The question is, who will be the focus of the next chapter in this neverending story of corruption, fraud, and ineptitude.
The opinions expressed are those of the author and are not held by Norway Today unless specifically stated.
About the author:
Jonathan is a lover of the written word. He believes the best way to combat this polarization of news and politics, in our time, is by having a balanced view. Both sides of the story are equally important. He also enjoys traveling and live music.
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