#MeToo in Denmark: Copenhagen mayor resigns over sexual harassment scandals

#MeToo in Denmark: Copenhagen mayor resigns over sexual harassment scandals
Copenhagen Lord Mayor Frank Jensen announces his resignation on October 19th. Photo: Philip Davali/Ritzau Scanpix
Copenhagen’s Lord Mayor Frank Jensen has announced he is to resign and step away from politics after a series of accounts of sexual harassment had left him on the brink.

Jensen, who is also a deputy leader of the governing Social Democratic party, announced his resignation on Monday afternoon after previously signalling he intended to stay on as mayor of the Danish capital.

He is the latest high-profile figure in Danish politics to be confronted by accounts of sexism and inappropriate conduct as the country’s reignited #MeToo debate continues to reach a previously unseen scope.

Last week, Morten Østergaard, leader of the Social Liberals, stood down from his position after admitting he was at the centre of internal sexual harassment complaints in the party.

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The Social Democrats now find themselves also deeply embroiled, after Jensen announced his resignation from both of his senior positions at a press briefing on Monday.

A series of accounts detailing inappropriate conduct and sexual harassment by Jensen towards party and municipal colleagues and media figures have emerged in recent days. The accounts, which span regular intervals dating back to 2004, were initiated by an article published on Friday evening by Jyllands-Posten in which two women gave accounts of harassment.

He was also accused on Sunday of exposing the identity of a woman who gave an anonymous account of harassment to Jyllands-Posten.

The woman, Cecilie Sværke Priess, is the leader of the Copenhagen section of the Social Democrats’ youth party. She had previously told Jyllands-Posten she knew of eight cases of harassment involving Jensen and called for the mayor to go.

The nature of the various accounts of sexual harassment by Jensen against the women includes moving his hand on to an inner thigh at a bar; on another occasion repeatedly touching a woman’s leg; licking women’s necks and ears at a Christmas party under the influence of alcohol; and giving Priess an unsolicited kiss at Fælledparken in Copenhagen in May 2019. Jensen has denied the latter incident took place.

Although the Social Democratic majority representation at Copenhagen City Hall had said it supported Jensen, other parts of the party including its youth wing called for him to step back from his leadership position, while allied parties said he should go on leave.

“This would have overshadowed the political work I want to be engaged with,” Jensen said on Monday in a statement reported by Danish media including DR.  

He also said he would “step back from politics”.

Jensen, an influential figure both locally in Copenhagen and nationally for the Social Democrats, has a number of other positions including board positions with the Rockwool Foundation and municipal employer interest organisation KL. He also chairs Udbetaling Danmark, the national administrator of the country’s social security system.

He will continue in his board roles, DR reports.

Following a ‘crisis meeting’ at Copenhagen City Hall on Sunday, Jensen issued an apology, saying he was “incredibly sorry that I have acted inappropriately towards [Danish: krænket, ed.] women”.

He said on Monday that he was unhappy with the course of events that led to his resignation.

“We have a large number of cases that have been told to the press and have to respond to them without knowing what’s behind it,” he said.

The now-former Copenhagen mayor said he believes the extent of the problem should first have been looked fully into by lawyers tasked by the Social Democrats with scrutinising the issue of sexism in the party.

“This is not worthy of being called a trial,” he said.

“I have been minister of justice in this country and I have protected the rule of law. I have ensured that you are not guilty until this has been proved. We need to be careful in this regard,” he said.

Fellow Social Democrat Lars Weiss will take over the Copenhagen Mayor position for the time being, DR reports.


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