Audun Lysbakken

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Audun Lysbakken
Lysbakken outside the Storting in 2017.
Leader of the Socialist Left Party
In office
11 March 2012 – 18 March 2023
First DeputyInga Marte Thorkildsen
Oddny Irene Miljeteig
Kirsti Bergstø
Second DeputyBård Vegar Solhjell
Snorre Valen
Torgeir Knag Fylkesnes
Preceded byKristin Halvorsen
Succeeded byKirsti Bergstø
Minister of Children and Equality
In office
20 October 2009 – 5 March 2012
Prime MinisterJens Stoltenberg
Preceded byAnniken Huitfeldt
Succeeded byInga Marte Thorkildsen
Member of the Storting
Assumed office
1 October 2009
DeputyGina Barstad
In office
1 October 2001 – 30 September 2005
Deputy Leader of the Socialist Left Party
In office
18 February 2006 – 11 March 2012
LeaderKristin Halvorsen
Preceded byØystein Djupedal
Succeeded byInga Marte Thorkildsen
Personal details
Born (1977-09-30) 30 September 1977 (age 45)
Bergen, Hordaland, Norway
Political partySocialist Left
SpouseSiv Mjaaland
Alma materBergen Handelsgymnasium
University of Bergen

Audun Bjørlo Lysbakken (born 30 September 1977) is a Norwegian politician who served as the leader of the Norwegian Socialist Left Party from 2012 to 2023. His career in national politics began when he was elected to the Norwegian parliament in 2001. In 2006, he became deputy leader of the Socialist Left Party. He held the post as Minister of Children and Equality in Jens Stoltenberg's second government from October 2009 to March 2012,[1] when he resigned due to a conflict of interest.[2] Under his leadership, the Socialist Left Party had strong gains in its vote share in Parliamentary elections and membership.[3][4]

Early life and education[edit]

Lysbakken is the son of actor Sigurd Lysbakken (1947–1994) and cultural worker and author Geirdis Bjørlo (1952). He attended primary school at Møhlenpris elementary school (1984–1993), and high school at Bergen Handelsgymnasium (1993–1996). He has university minors in French and comparative politics from the University of Bergen (1996–1998). After his university studies, he performed mandatory civil service instead of conscript military duty, serving as a secretary at Norsk Økologisk Landbrukslag and as a journalist in the daily Klassekampen 2000–2001.[1]

Political career[edit]

Early career[edit]

Lysbakken held various posts in the youth NGOs Ungdom mot EU and Nature and Youth 1995–1996, and was involved in student politics during his university studies 1998–1999. Lysbakken held his first post in Socialist Youth, the Socialist Left party's youth organization, as leader of its Bergen chapter in 1996–1998, and went on to be elected leader of the county (Hordaland) organization in 1998–2000. He was deputy leader of the Socialist Youth's national organization 2000–2002.

Lysbakken's first public office was as member of the Bergen City Council in 1999–2000. He was elected to the Norwegian Parliament in 2001 as a representative for Hordaland county. He was a member of the parliament's Standing Committee on Finance and Economic Affairs. He was not re-elected in 2005, but became first deputy representative. He was elected deputy leader of the Socialist Left Party on 18 February 2006.

Government office[edit]

In 2009, Lysbakken reclaimed a seat in Parliament from Hordaland, and was appointed to the Standing Committee on Foreign Affairs and Defence. He was named parliamentary leader of his party group,[5] but was shortly thereafter appointed as Minister of Children, Equality and Social Inclusion in Stoltenberg's Second Cabinet on 20 October 2009, as the first man to hold this post. When Lysbakken was appointed to the ministry, his deputy Gina Barstad took his place in Parliament.

During Lysbakken's term in office, he oversaw an increase in the funding of child protection services by over 300 million NOK per year.[6] The parental leave and the father's quota were also extended after propositions from his office.[7] Lysbakken also wrote a book entitled "Liberty, equality and fatherhood", which was published in 2011.[8]

Lysbakken resigned from his office on 5 March 2012 (see "self-defense case" below).[9] On 10 March, he was elected party leader.

Party leadership[edit]

After resigning as Minister, Lysbakken resumed his duties as a representative in the Storting and the position as parliamentary leader, now holding a seat on the Parliament's Standing Committee on Health and Social Services, as well as the Enlarged Standing Committee on Foreign and Defence Affairs.[9][1] Later in the 2009-2013 assembly of the Norwegian Parliament, he moved to the Standing Committee on Schools and Education. After the 2017 election, he rejoined the Standing Committee on Foreign and Defence Affairs.[1]

Under Lysbakken's leadership, the Socialist Left Party, which had declined steadily in the polls since joining Jens Stoltenberg's "Red-Green" government, bounced back, increasing its parliamentary group after gains in the 2017 election. The party's election campaign in 2017 and Lysbakken as party leader was awarded the prize for best campaign by a panel in the publicity industry magazine Kampanje, and the media-industry newspaper Medier24.[10] Several commentators agreed that Lysbakken was the "winner" of several of the biggest televised debates.[3][4]

The campaign, focusing on issues of inequality, climate change and education, also resulted in a growth in voter share. The party gained almost 50% in the number of votes since the poor showing in the 2013 election, gaining 4 new seats in Parliament and 176.000 votes, corresponding to a 6,0 % voter share.[11] Party membership rose in parallel. In early 2018, the party had over 11.000 members, the highest number since the early nineties.[3]

Lysbakken led the party into 2021 election, with the campaign focusing on tackling climate change and inequality. His party went onto win 2 more seats, increasing the seat count to 13. He was open to forming a red-green government with the Labour and Centre parties, and led the party's delegation in the pre-negotiations in Hurdal starting on 23 September. However, on 29 September, Lysbakken announced that his party would withdraw from negotiations, notably citing disagreements with the Labour and Centre Party on issues of petroleum and welfare. He reassured that the party was open to re-start negotiations at a later point in time, and added that the party would be going into opposition.[12][13]

On 9 November 2022, Lysbakken announced that he wouldn't seek re-election as party leader and step down at the next party convention in March 2023, citing family reasons.[14] Lysbakken was succeeded by his deputy leader, Kirsti Bergstø, at the party convention in March.[15]

"Self-defense" case[edit]

In January 2012, the newspaper Dagbladet reported that the Ministry of Children and Equality had awarded NOK 500,000 to two groups to fund self-defense education for high school girls.[16] Although approved by parliament to combat a recent spike in sexual assaults, the allocation was made without public notice, in violation of internal government rules.[16][17] As Lysbakken was on parental leave when the case broke, his State secretary, Henriette Westhrin, reported that the allocation was made according to "completely normal procedure". Lysbakken later apologized unreservedly, calling the affair an "error of judgment" on his behalf and promising a "full review" of the Ministry's past funding of external projects.[16][18]

In the wake of the disclosure, Lysbakken's conflict of interest in the allocation of funds to the NGO Reform, where he had been a member of the board until assuming his ministerial post, also came to attention.[19] The Norwegian parliament's Standing Committee on Scrutiny and Constitutional Affairs opened a public inquiry into the misuse of public funds under Lysbakken's leadership.[20] As a result of the affair, he resigned as minister on 5 March 2012.[2] Not only Lysbakken, but also one of his State secretaries, Kirsti Bergstø, and the non-political permanent under-secretary of state, Harald Nybøen, resigned as a consequence of the case.[21][22]

His conduct was labeled "political corruption" by anti-corruption watchdog Transparency International's Norwegian branch,[23] a position that was echoed by scholar Petter Gottschalk.[24] Professor of Law, Jan Fridthjof Bernt, however, asserted that while the case was clearly one of poor practice, there were no signs of criminal action.[25] Based on statements by Lysbakken, alleging that "this could have happened in many ministries", the Parliament initiated a wide-reaching inquiry into the ministries' allocations to external beneficiaries. During this inquiry's final hearing, Lysbakken was lauded by opposition leader of the Standing Committee on Scrutiny and Constitutional Affairs, Anders Anundsen, for taking his constitutional responsibility and resigning, and his successor Inga Marte Thorkildsen received praise for taking measures "which could make one of the worst ministries into one of the best" in its allocation practices. The inquiry exposed irregularities in the allocation practices of several ministries.[26]

Political views[edit]

In his 2015 book, Frihet Sammen (Freedom Together), Lysbakken describes himself as a democratic socialist, a male feminist and an environmentalist. He puts inequality and injustice at the centre of his political project, arguing that the left should prioritize the reduction of economic and social inequality. He makes the case that SV is a party rooted as strongly in socialist views as in the green, environmental tradition, and that he sees the question of climate change in terms of intergenerational and international equity.[27] In 2009, he co-authored a book, arguing that the financial crisis demonstrated, among other things, a need for greater economic democracy.[28][29]

Earlier, as deputy leader of the Socialist Youth, Lysbakken described himself as a Marxist, and expressed wishes to "abolish capitalism" as well as the Oslo Stock Exchange.[30] In a study booklet for the Socialist Youth that he co-authored, called Manifest 02, he called for a ban on the right to privately own means of production as well as wage labour.[31] He argued for his views in a 2005 interview,[32] and was defended by Prime Minister Stoltenberg when appointed minister in 2009.[33] During his campaign to be elected party leader in 2011, he said that "Ten years ago, when I was elected as a representative to the Parliament, I called myself a revolutionary Marxist. I no longer do. The world has changed, and the Socialist Left has changed."[34]

Personal life[edit]

He is married to Siv Mjaaland, and the couple have three children. Mjaaland has a son from a previous relationship.[35]


  1. ^ a b c d "Audun Lysbakken" (in Norwegian). Storting. (Official parliament biography)
  2. ^ a b "Lysbakken går av, men stiller som lederkandidat" [Lysbakken resigns, but upholds candidacy for party leader] (in Norwegian). Norsk Telegrambyrå/ 5 March 2012. Archived from the original on 13 April 2012. Retrieved 5 June 2012.
  3. ^ a b c "SV-jubel over kraftig medlemsvekst" [SV rejoices over membership growth] (in Norwegian). Dagens Næringsliv. 10 January 2018. Retrieved 6 April 2018.
  4. ^ a b "SV vokser videre etter godt valg" [SV continues to grow after good elections] (in Norwegian). Vårt Land. 28 September 2017. Retrieved 6 April 2018.
  5. ^ "Lysbakken parlamentarisk leder i SV" [Lysbakken parliamentary leader for Socialist Left] (in Norwegian). Norsk Telegrambyrå/Verdens Gang. 9 October 2009. Retrieved 5 June 2012.
  6. ^ "Barnevernsløftet" [Strengthening of Child Protection Services] (in Norwegian). The Norwegian Government. 6 October 2011. Retrieved 14 May 2018.
  7. ^ Ekeberg, Emilie (2 January 2012). "Two out of three want to abolish the father's quota" [To av tre vil fjerne fedrekvoten]. Klassekampen (in Norwegian). Archived from the original on 8 January 2012. Retrieved 28 February 2013.
  8. ^ Lode, Veslemøy (25 October 2011). "Slik blir den nye foreldrepermisjonen" [This is the new parental leave]. Dagbladet (in Norwegian). Retrieved 28 February 2013.
  9. ^ a b Sjur Øverås Knudsen; Siv Sandvik; Martin Herman Wiedswang Zondag (26 March 2012). "Store endringer i SVs stortingsgruppe" [Large changes in the Socialist Left's parliamentary group] (in Norwegian). Norsk Rikskringkasting. Retrieved 5 June 2012.
  10. ^ Gard L. Michalsen (9 September 2017). "Fire intense uker og mange debatter senere: Audun Lysbakken er valgkampens klare vinner" [Four intense weeks and many debates later: Audun Lysbakken is the best campaigner of this election season] (in Norwegian). Medier24. Retrieved 14 May 2018.
  11. ^ "Valget 2017: Slik beveget velgerne seg" [The 2017 Elections: These are the voter exchanges]. Norwegian Institute for Social Research. 8 November 2017. Retrieved 14 May 2018.
  12. ^ "Valgresultat for Norge - Valg 2021" (in Norwegian). NRK. 13 September 2021. Retrieved 29 September 2021.
  13. ^ "SV bryter sonderingene på Hurdal: − Stor skuffelse" (in Norwegian). Verdens Gang. 29 September 2021. Retrieved 29 September 2021.
  14. ^ "Audun Lysbakken (SV) stiller ikke til gjenvalg: − Det koster" (in Norwegian). Verdens Gang. 9 November 2022. Retrieved 9 November 2022.
  15. ^ "Kirsti Bergstø er SVs nye partileder" (in Norwegian). NRK. 18 March 2023. Retrieved 18 March 2023.
  16. ^ a b c Tore Bergsaker; Marie Melgård (25 January 2012). "Ga voldtektspenger til sine egne" [Gave rape money to his own] (in Norwegian). Dagbladet. Retrieved 5 June 2012.
  17. ^ "Selvforsvarskurs skal verve SU-ere" [Self defense courses to recruit Socialist Youth] (in Norwegian). Norsk Rikskringkasting. 28 February 2012. Retrieved 5 June 2012.
  18. ^ Viseth, Ellen (25 February 2012). "Anundsen vil kreve svar fra Lysbakken om selvforsvarspenger" [Anundsen will demand answers from Lysbakken regarding self-defense money]. (in Norwegian).
  19. ^ Gunnar Stavrum; Ole Eikeland (5 March 2012). "Båndet som felte Lysbakken" [The connection that felled Lysbakken] (in Norwegian). NA24. Retrieved 6 June 2012.
  20. ^ NTB (25 February 2012). "Åpner sak mot Lysbakken" [Inquiry opened on Lysbakken]. (in Norwegian). Retrieved 25 February 2012.
  21. ^ "Kirsti Bergstø slutter som statssekretær" [Kirsti Bergstø resigns from post as State secretary] (in Norwegian). Verdens Gang/Norsk Telegrambyrå. 5 March 2012. Retrieved 28 February 2013.
  22. ^ Gedde-Dahl, Siri (8 March 2012). "Audun Lysbakkens departementsråd går av" [Audun Lysbakken's permanent secretary resigns]. Aftenposten (in Norwegian). Retrieved 28 February 2013.
  23. ^ Tandstad, Bent (25 February 2012). "Dette er politisk korrupsjon" [This is political corruption]. (in Norwegian).
  24. ^ NTB. "Professor mener Lysbakken-bevilgning er korrupsjon". Retrieved 25 February 2012.
  25. ^ Dag Håkon Hellevik (29 February 2012). "Uryddig, men ikke ulovlig" [Poor practice, but not illegal] (in Norwegian). Ukeavisen ledelse. Retrieved 6 June 2012.
  26. ^ Bergsaker, Tore; Kristiansen, Bjørn S. (10 January 2013). "Hyllet Lysbakken for at han gikk av" [Praised Lysbakken for resigning]. Dagbladet (in Norwegian). Retrieved 28 February 2013.
  27. ^ Lysbakken, Audun Bjørlo (2015). Frihet sammen [Freedom Together]. Oslo: Gyldendal Norsk Forlag. ISBN 9788205480940.
  28. ^ Veslemøy Lode (27 April 2009). "SV-nestleder vil la folket kreve nyvalg" [Socialist Left deputy leader wants to give the people the right to recall parliament] (in Norwegian). Dagbladet. Archived from the original on 11 October 2012. Retrieved 5 June 2012..
  29. ^ Audun Lysbakken; Ingvar Skjerve (2009). Deltakerne: En reise i demokratiets framtid [Participants: A Journey in the Future of Democracy] (in Norwegian). Oslo: Forlaget Manifest. ISBN 978-82-92866-13-9.
  30. ^ Johansen, Marianne (29 November 2005). "SV-nestleder vil fjerne børsen" [Socialist Left deputy leader wants to abolish the stock exchange]. Verdens Gang (in Norwegian).
  31. ^ Torbjørn Røe Isaksen (21 October 2009). "Redaksjonsblogg: Marxist i regjeringen" [Editorial blog:Marxist in the Government]. (in Norwegian). Archived from the original on 23 July 2012. Retrieved 5 June 2012.
  32. ^ Håkon Gundersen (2 December 2005). "Rakrygget slangemenneske" [Contortionist with a spine] (in Norwegian). Morgenbladet. Retrieved 5 June 2012.
  33. ^ Per Anders Johansen; et al. (21 October 2009). "Stoltenbergs marxist" [Stoltenberg's marxist] (in Norwegian). Aftenposten. Archived from the original on 9 October 2012. Retrieved 5 June 2012.
  34. ^ Marie Melgård (19 September 2011). "Vil bli en samlende leder" [Will become unifying leader] (in Norwegian). Dagbladet. Retrieved 5 June 2012..
  35. ^ "Babyglede for Audun Lysbakken: Venter nytt barn" (in Norwegian). VG. 1 October 2021. Retrieved 2 October 2021.
Political offices
Preceded by Norwegian Minister of Children and Equality
Succeeded by