Norway's health minister accused of plagiarism in latest ethics scandal to rock the government

FILE - Minister of Health and Care Ingvild Kjerkol sits in the parliamentary chamber in Oslo, Wednesday Jan. 17, 2024. The center-right opposition in Norway on Thursday called for the resignation of Norway’s Health Minister Ingvild Kjerkol after an academic plagiarism probe ruled that she cheated in her thesis from 2021. It was the latest case of unethical behavior in Prime Minister Jonas Gahr Store's center-left government which took office in October 2021. (Ole Berg-Rusten/NTB via AP, File)

COPENHAGEN, Denmark (AP) — An academic probe said Thursday that Norway’s Health Minister Ingvild Kjerkol plagiarized parts of her masters’ degree thesis three years ago, the second such case this year in the Norwegian government and the latest allegation of unethical behavior to rock the center-left government.

The investigation by Nord University in Bodoe, northern Norway, found Kjerkol’s 2021 thesis contained “far more serious errors than sloppiness,” Norwegian broadcaster NRK reported. The broadcaster said the probe’s conclusion was to deprive Kjerkol of her master’s degree in health management.

The 48-year-old Kjerkol did not comment Thursday. But she has previously rejected the allegations, saying she and a co-author did not copy to parts of another student’s thesis from 2015.

Kjerkol has been in office since October 2021 when Prime Minister Jonas Gahr Støre presented a coalition government of his own Labor party and the junior Center Party.

The conclusion of Thursday’s probe immediately prompted the opposition to urge Gahr Støre to say whether he has trust in Kjerkol.

Jan Tore Sanner, a senior member of Norway’s main opposition party, Hoeyre, told Norwegian news agency NTB, that the prime minister must address “the matter of confidence” in Kjerkol.” Sylvi Listhaug, the leader of the anti-immigrant Progress Party, also called on Gahr Støre to “assess whether he has confidence in her.”

Kjerkol is the second government member to be entangled in academic plagiarism allegations this year. In January, Sandra Borch stepped down as minister for research and higher education after a student discovered that parts of Borch’s master’s thesis, including spelling mistakes, were copied without attribution from a different author.

Gahr Støre’s coalition has seen the departure of several ministers in recent months over other wrongdoings. In September, it was revealed that the husband of then Foreign Minister Anniken Huitfeldt had been trading in stocks for years behind her back and that could potentially enrich her.

The ruling social democratic Labor party was defeated in September in local elections by the Hoeyre for the first time since 1924. The party, which for decades was Norway’s largest party in local elections, came in second in the Sept. 11 elections for local councils in Norway’s 356 municipalities and 11 counties.