Picture: 123RF
Picture: 123RF

One of Denmark’s most powerful politicians is stepping down after trying to keep secret an episode in which he sexually harassed a younger female colleague.

Morten Ostergaard, the leader of the Social Liberals, said he had “betrayed the trust” of his party members.

Speaking to reporters late on Wednesday, Ostergaard said he regretted that he “hadn’t had the courage” to admit his involvement in the incident, which took place several years ago. His party is the biggest ally in parliament of the minority Social Democrat government.

The ousting comes as Denmark’s parliament deals with allegations that it’s allowed systematic abuse for years. A total of 322 former and current female politicians and staffers at parliament recently signed a letter saying they’d experienced sexual harassment, prompting Prime Minister Mette Frederiksen to seek an external investigation.

Lotte Rod, a member of the Social Liberals, was among those to come forward, revealing that a fellow party member had harassed her by touching her in an inappropriate way.

Ostergaard initially said the party had dealt with the matter and refused to identify the offender. On Wednesday, he owned up.

“It was my hand she had to remove from her thigh almost a decade ago,” Ostergaard said.

In a tweet, Rod said she had forgiven Ostergaard for the incident but that his handling of the case was problematic.

Ostergaard, who was an economy minister in a previous government coalition, will remain an MP. Sofie Carsten Nielsen, a former minister of education, will replace Ostergaard as party head.

Bloomberg

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