Den personlige politiske skandale Anna Louise Højbjerg Henrichsen & Lise Lybeck Sørensen


Regularly, news stories on politicians’ dos and don’ts end up on the front pages of tabloids as well

as more serious newspapers. During the past decade, a number of powerful and significant Danish

politicians have gone through media storms resulting from their sex lives, alcohol and hotel habits,

personal finances, various kinds of misuse of power in political positions, etc.

Although personal political scandals have become an integrated part of Danish politics, the

phenomenon has not been examined thoroughly in the Danish context. For this reason, this thesis

aims to give a solid analysis of the personal political scandal in Denmark. Through an explorative

study of three personal political scandals, the thesis suggests that the personal political scandal in

Denmark consists of four distinctive characteristics: the violations, the media coverage, the

handling, and the political involvement. The three scandals, examined in the thesis, are former

Prime Minister Lars Løkke Rasmussen’s case on the wrongfully completed annexes, current Prime

Minister Helle Thorning-Schmidt’s case on her and husband Stephen Kinnock’s private tax

relations, and former Minister for Integration Birthe Rønn Hornbech’s case on illegal administration

of statelessness.

The thesis finds that personal political scandals in Denmark exist in the sphere between private and

public and that violations of legal, normative, and second degree are present in all three scandals.

Also, the thesis states that a specific characteristic for personal political scandals in Denmark is

what we have defined as the “practice as you preach” dimension, which implies that Danish

politicians’ behavior must correspond with what they lecture others to do. The media coverage was

shown to be of significant importance, as all three scandals were made public as a consequence of a

revelation in the media. The media also plays a crucial role as a political actor in the scandals. The

three scandalized politicians’ handling of the cases clarified that professionalization is an implicit

part of Danish politics, although it was not present in all cases. Finally, one cannot diminish the role

of other politicians and political institutions in scandals that are per definition personal in their

substance. This supports the argument that we must examine institutional and personal political

scandals independently and that the personal political scandal is as much private as it is public. As a

result of the empirical and analytical findings, the final chapter in the thesis discusses the increasing

need for political reforms and openness in the Danish administration. Because the personal political

scandal has turned out to be a permanent component of Danish politics, the main contribution of the

thesis remains that more research in the field of personal political scandals in Denmark is needed in

order for us to understand the dimensions and the effects of the phenomenon. !


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