Democracy rests on the premise that elected representatives stand, and act for the represented. When candidates and officeholders are inhibited from fulfilling their representative duties electoral integrity and legitimacy are harmed. Harassment clearly limits and undermines representation by restricting the engagement, efficacy and effectiveness of (cohorts within) representatives. At times regarded as a necessary ‘cost’ of doing politics harassment and sexism are old phenomena. With a focus on ‘good parliaments’, the revulsion and debate engendered by the murder of a female MP in the UK in 2016, a global groundswell of #metoo in politics, and INGO and academic rejection of harassment as a price to be paid, harassment is an emerging field. This paper, first, documents the nature and breadth of physical, psychological and sexual harassment in Danish local politics 2020. Secondly, it explains who is targeted with a particular focus on the relevance of gender, position within the parliamentary system and party belonging. Thirdly, it examines the implications of harassment for the parliamentary and online behaviour of the representatives as well as for their political ambitions.
Karina Kosiara-Pedersen is Associate Professor of Political Science at the University of Copenhagen.