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Helga Pedersen (Norway)

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Helga Pedersen (Norway)

Helga Pedersen
Helga Pedersen in 2009
Minister of Fisheries and Coastal Affairs
In office
Prime Minister Jens Stoltenberg
Preceded by Svein Ludvigsen
Succeeded by Sylvia Brustad
County mayor of Finnmark
In office
Preceded by Evy-Ann Midttun
Succeeded by Kirsti Saxi
Personal details
Born January 13, 1973 (1973-01-13) (age 42)
Sør-Varanger, Norway
Political party Labour
Spouse(s) Erik Brenli[1]
Children Two daughters
Alma mater University of Tromsø
University of Bergen
Religion Christianity[2]

Helga Pedersen (born 13 January 1973) is a Norwegian politician, former Minister, and member of the Storting, who is currently deputy leader for the Norwegian Labour Party. A native of Sør-Varanger, she served between 2003 and 2005 as the County Mayor of the northernmost Finnmark county. From 2005 to 2009 she served as Minister of Fisheries and Coastal Affairs, becoming the youngest member of the Labour-led Red-Green Coalition headed by Jens Stoltenberg.

A teacher by profession, she has spent most her adult life as a career politician. In 2009 she was elected to the Norwegian parliament, the Storting for the first time, and from 2009 until the 2013 parliamentary election she served as the Labour Party's parliamentary leader. Officially registered as a member of the Sami national minority, Pedersen was Norway's first officially Sámi cabinet minister.[3]


  • Early life 1
    • Education 1.1
  • Early career 2
  • Political career 3
  • Personal life 4
  • Controversies 5
  • References 6

Early life

Helga Pedersen was born in the municipality of Sør-Varanger in Finnmark county on 13 January 1973, but was raised in the rural settlement of Vestertana in the nearby Tana municipality. Her father, Terje Pedersen (1941-) was a farmer who had built his own sheep-farm, as well as being a fisherman and a local politician.[3] Her mother, Hjørdis Langholm (1942-), was originally from Jæren and worked as a registered nurse. She grew up with three siblings in a culturally Sámi household.


She attended elementary school as well as lower secondary school at the local settlement school in Vestertana. Later she went to Vadsø Upper Secondary school, during which time she spent a year studying at the Lycée Alain Chartier in Bayeux, France. Upon finishing high school, she enrolled in the University of Bergen graduating in 1996 with a bachelor degree in Russian studies. After leaving Bergen she enrolled in the University of Tromsø, graduating in 1998 with a degree in History.

Early career

Pedersen started her professional career in 1992, when she was employed as a teacher's assistant, and later full-time teacher at the rural Boftsa school in Tana. She left the job in 1993. In 1998 she was hired as a construction planning consultant by the Finnmark county administration. This employment lasted until 2000.

Political career

Her political career started early. She became leader of her local Workers' Youth League chapter at age 19 and later served as political adviser within the Labour Party. At age 30 she was elected county mayor for Finnmark. From April to October 2001, during the first cabinet Stoltenberg, she was appointed political advisor in the Ministry of Industry and Trade. In 2005, during the second cabinet Stoltenberg, she was appointed Minister of Fisheries and Coastal Affairs. Pedersen is the first politician of Sámi descent to have been member of any country's government, and also the first member of any ethnic minority hold a place in the Norwegian government.

On the local level she was a deputy member of Finnmark county council from 1999 to 2003, and county mayor from 2003 to 2005. In 2007 she was elected as deputy leader of the Labour Party, as the first woman with Sami background to hold this position.[4] Following the 2009 election, Pedersen was chosen to be the parliamentary leader for the Labour Party in the Storting. She therefore resigned as fishery minister and left the cabinet.[5] She remained in this capacity until the election defeat in the 2013 parliamentary elections, when former prime minister Jens Stoltenberg returned to the parliament.

Pedersen was named as a potential candidate for the Labour leadership, after Jens Stoltenberg announced he was stepping down as leader, in order to become the Secretary General of NATO. Other sources speculated that Pedersen could in fact be sacked as deputy leader, in order to promote Anniken Huitfeldt or the rising star Hadia Tajik.[6] At a special Party Congress in March 2014, Pedersen was snubbed for the leadership post in favour of former Minister of Health Jonas Gahr Støre. She was re-elected as deputy leader however, mainly due to massive pressure from the Northern branches of the party.[7]

The fact that Pedersen, as the deputy leader, was not promoted to the top post, was described by veteran political commentator Stein Kåre Kristiansen a "humiliation".[8] On 3 September 2014 she announced her intention of stepping down as deputy leader of the Labour party. The decision was due to her desire to spend more time, including evenings and weekends with her family.[9]

Personal life

Pedersen is married to Erik Brenli, a journalist originally from Brandbu in Hadeland. The married 12 July 2008, after having been in a relationship for almost five years.[10] Together they have two daughters, and they divide their time between Oslo and their rural estate in Vestertana, Finnmark.[1]

Both Pedersen and her children are officially listed as members of the Sámi national minority, gaining some privileges in regards to the Sami parliamentary elections, as well as in agriculture. Pedersen speaks fluently the Sami language, and always dons the traditional Sami Gákti dress on official celebrations and receptions.[3]


In the summer of 2009, the newspaper Dagbladet reported that Pedersen and her husband illegally had resided in their beach-front home in Tana. It emerged that the residence was only approved as a part-time vacation retreat, and the couple had not applied for the necessary permits to have it reclassified as an all-year residence. The case was compared to that of former minister Åslaug Haga who resigned the previous year, also due to building permit irregularities.[11]

Pedersen ignited controversy, when she during a speech to local Labour party members in Vadsø, publicly called for the spectators to help smear (Norwegian: Sverte) the Conservative-led government, after openly stating that she has done the same. She stated: "Now I've spent a lot of time smearing the government, but it's important. And it is important that everyone helps to do just that."[12] The comments caused a fierce reaction from several conservative cabinet ministers, with Jan Tore Sanner stating that the new Labour strategy was revealed. Member of Parliament Frank Bakke-Jensen called the comments "shameful" and "ridiculous". The Progress Party labelled the comments "sad and serious for the democracy".[13] Pedersen subsequently apologized unreservedly for her comments, calling it a "slip-of-the-tongue", which she regretted.[14]


  • "Helga Pedersen" (in Norwegian).  
  1. ^ a b Larsen, Dan. "Helgas ektemann vil «være same»". Retrieved 24 February 2014. 
  2. ^ Kristne Arbeidere - SOM MENNESKER TRENGER VI NOE MER!
  3. ^ a b c Opedal, Hallgeir. "Hjem til Helga". Retrieved 24 February 2014. 
  4. ^ "Hør statsministeren tale på samisk". Retrieved 25 February 2014. 
  5. ^ Knudsen, Sjur Øverås (2009-09-29). "Pedersen går ut av regjeringen" (in Norwegian). NRK. Retrieved 2009-09-30. 
  6. ^ Blindheim, Anne. "Helga Pedersen kan bli vraket". Retrieved 4 September 2014. 
  7. ^ Mogård, Lars. "– Helga blir sittende som nestleder". Retrieved 4 September 2014. 
  8. ^ Hansen, Håvard. "– Ydmykende for Helga Pedersen". Retrieved 4 September 2014. 
  9. ^ Auestad, Gunn. "Pedersen tar ikke gjenvalg: – Vil ha mer tid med barna". Retrieved 4 September 2014. 
  10. ^ "Helga Pedersen sa ja til Erik Brenli". Retrieved 24 February 2014. 
  11. ^ "Her bor Helga Pedersen ulovlig". Retrieved 25 February 2014. 
  12. ^ "Ap-nestleder: - Det er viktig at alle bidrar til å sverte den nye regjeringen". Retrieved 25 February 2014. 
  13. ^ "Ordene i Vadsø". Retrieved 25 February 2014. 
  14. ^ "Ap-toppen beklager «svertekampanjen»". Retrieved 25 February 2014. 
Political offices
Preceded by
Evy-Ann Midttun
County mayor of Finnmark
Succeeded by
Kirsti Saxi
Preceded by
Svein Ludvigsen
Norwegian Minister of Fisheries and Coastal Affairs
Succeeded by
Sylvia Brustad
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