• Sweden edition
 
THE LOCAL AT ALMEDALEN
Almedalen: a bonfire of Swedish vanity

Almedalen: a bonfire of Swedish vanity

Published: 02 Jul 2012 13:45 GMT+02:00
Updated: 02 Jul 2012 13:45 GMT+02:00

This week, most everyone who is anyone in Swedish politics will be spending some time in Visby, the capital of Gotland, Sweden's outpost in the Baltic Sea.

As a result, throngs of Swedish journalists will be making the trip as well, either by boat or by plane.

Indeed, this quaint medieval town is positively overrun with fast-talking schmoozers, earnest public servants, back-slapping lobbyists and sycophantic hordes from the Swedish media.

Surveying the scene, one is hard pressed to believe that it all began with simple speech scribbled on the back of grocery bill.

The speech was short and the speaker delivered it standing on the back of a lorry truck.

Although the speaker was used to giving speeches off the cuff, he had scribbled some notes on the back of a bill from the local Konsum grocery store.

The reason he had chosen to speak in Visby was that his family had started to rent a cottage on the nearby island of Fårö during the summer holidays.

One of his neighbours was the famous film director Ingmar Bergman.

The speaker was future Social Democrat Prime Minister Olof Palme. And the speech spawned what has grown into one of the most important annual political gatherings in Sweden.

In 1968 Palme gave a speech in Visby next to the medieval city wall’s Kruttorn ('Gunpowder Tower'), situated in a former port that is now a valley called Almedalen ('Elm Valley').

In the years that followed, making a pilgramage to Visby in the first week of July became a habit for every Swedish politician, as common as attending the opening of parliament in September.

Today Almedalen has become a tradition that few politicians in Sweden can afford to miss, attracting nearly everyone that participates in Swedish political debate.

There may be several reasons for going to Almedalen, but most people are there to impress and to influence – two things for which the generally consensus-driven and quiet Swedes aren't especially known.

To paraphrase the American author Tom Wolfe, Almedalen is something of a week-long bonfire of Swedish political vanity consisting of around one thousand seminars of all shades and sizes.

It would take a person a lifetime to attend them all.

Since Palme's famous 1968 speech, Almedalen has grown into a week of pure Swedish politics.

During the week, each political party with representation in the Riksdag is given one day to promote its own views.

The party leader gives a speech and the party then often arranges a series of related seminars promoting their views on what they consider to be the party's central issues.

The so-called “talking point” of the day is supposed to be a speech normally held in the afternoon. And as most journalists arrive on Monday and only remain through the end of the week, it is considered bad luck to talk on the two Sundays which bookend the event.

As it happens, a lottery decides which day each party can call its own, and this year the Sweden Democrats were stuck with the opening Sunday, while the smallest party in the government the Christian Democrats, are set to close out the week with a speech held on the closing Sunday, July 8th.

While some have suggested the lottery may have been rigged against the Sweden Democrats, who barnstormed the Swedish political establishment in 2010 on an anti-immigration platform that gave parliamentary representation for the first time, such conspiracy theories hold no weight.

After all, the Social Democrats, Sweden's ultimate "establishment" party, have been given unlucky spots in the past, with sitting prime ministers being relegated to second-rate spots despite the party leading being in government.

Over the years Almedalen has also been the scene of some spectacular political manifestations.

It was here ahead of the 1991 elections that the populist party New Democracy (Ny Demokrati) illustrated the Swedish tax burden by creating a massive pile of plastic boxes one normally uses to store bottles.

And in 2010 Gudrun Schyman who was then spokesperson for Feminist Initiative (Feministiskt Initiativ), literally burned 100,000 kronor ($15,000) in cash by setting it on fire to illustrate wage differences between in salaries earned by men and women.

While the stunt made a huge splash in the media, she also came in for harsh criticism for setting the cash alight.

This year, pundits expect the centre-right government to use Almedalen to fight back after months of wallowing in the polls.

In addition, Sweden's centre-left political opposition are expected to use the week to attempt to unite among themselves.

Of course, many are also waiting to see what sort of surprises or scandals may be in store at this year's Almeldalen.

Some are looking to the smaller parties in the Alliance government – the Centre Party, the Liberals (Folkpartiet), and the Christian Democrats – to try to grab attention with some policy pronouncement that contradicts the current government Moderate-led minority government.

Many are also looking to the Green Party to flex its muscle as a party that can negotiate and cooperate with both the party's on the right and on the left.

While the party recently renewed its pledge to cooperate with the Alliance government on immigration policies, Social Democrat party leader Stefan Löfven knows that right now his party has no hope of coming back to power without the support of the Greens.

Some say that Fredrik Reinfeldt thinks his future as prime minister hinges on the Greens, so this year’s Almedalen might see some attempts to lure the Green into a deeper cooperation.

Of course, these are just few of many predictions being floated among pundits and analysts.

At the end of the day, however, people come to Almedalen to gossip, make connections, and get enlightened at one of the myriad of scheduled seminars.

Be sure to check back during the week for more reports from inside Almedalen.

Of course, future dispatches may depend on the internet at the press centre in Visby functioning normally – something which was decidedly not the case on Sunday afternoon, leaving some journalists scrambling for alternatives.

Turns out the unsecure network was working, but the password protected wireless connection meant for journalists was inaccessible.

Who knows, maybe it was due to some WikiLeaks-Assange related conspiracy?!?

Probably not, but one thing is for certain, one should always expect the unexpected at Almedalen.

David Lindén is a PhD student in history at King’s College London who is serving as the acting political editor for Länstidningen in Södertälje for the summer 2012. Follow him on Twitter at @davidlinden1.

Your comments about this article

Today's headlines
Science
Swedish women in two-year sex pill study
Contraceptive pills have been linked to mood swings. Photo: Shutterstock

Swedish women in two-year sex pill study

Three hundred women from across Sweden are taking part in a study designed to demonstrate that modern contraceptive pills don't lead to decreased libido or mood swings. READ  

National
Stockholm 'sinking' oil spill ship safe
The ship was rescued on Thursday. Photo: Swedish Coast Guard

Stockholm 'sinking' oil spill ship safe

After fears a ship carrying around 52 tonnes of oil could sink in Stockholm's archipelago, Sweden's Coast Guard said the vessel had been towed to safety. READ  

National
Dog attack policewoman acquitted on appeal
A scene from a video of the attack published by Dagens Nyheter

Dog attack policewoman acquitted on appeal

A policewoman accused of letting her dog attack a drunk man while she repeatedly hit him with a baton, has had her conviction overturned by a court in Stockholm. READ  

Entertainment
What's On: October 31st - November 7th
Uma Thurman will soon be on her way to Stockholm. Photo: TT

What's On: October 31st - November 7th

Halloween fun and an international film festival are the big events hitting Stockholm this week. We cast our eye over the capital and the rest of the country for the best activities to check out this week. READ  

International
Pirate Bay Swede found guilty in Denmark
Gottrid Svartholm Warg. File photo: TT

Pirate Bay Swede found guilty in Denmark

Sweden's Pirate Bay Founder Gottrid Svartholm Warg was found guilty of hacking crimes in a Danish court on Thursday. READ  

National
Malmö loses out as rare toads move in
The European green toad. Photo: H. Krisp (WikiCommons)

Malmö loses out as rare toads move in

After a rare species of toad moved into southern Sweden's Malmö, builders have had to tone down massive expansion plans in the area. READ  

Politics
Palestine recognized as state by Sweden
Sweden's Foreign Minister is Margot Wallström. Photo: TT

Palestine recognized as state by Sweden

The Swedish government has officially decided to recognize Palestine, with the move announced in a speech by the country's new Foreign Minister Margot Wallström. READ  

Interview
Stockholm's shocking take on Halloween
For ten days, Globen is transformed into a giant pumpkin. Photo: Shockholm

Stockholm's shocking take on Halloween

American Bill Schacht missed the spooky outfits, family feasts and charity events he associated with Halloween when he moved to Sweden. So he did something about it. The Local meets the founder of the capital's annual Shockholm parade. READ  

Business & Money
Huge losses for energy giant Vattenfall
A Vattenfall plant in Germany. Photo: TT

Huge losses for energy giant Vattenfall

Swedish energy company Vattenfall has reported losses for the third quarter in a row. READ  

International
Malala donates prize winnings to Gaza
Malala receives the Children's Prize from Queen Silvia. Photo: TT

Malala donates prize winnings to Gaza

UPDATED: Girls' rights champion Malala Yousafzai, who was in Sweden to accept the World's Children's Prize on Wednesday, said she would use all her winnings to help rebuild schools in war-ravaged Gaza. READ  

RECEIVE OUR NEWSLETTER AND ALERTS
Business & Money
Get your own office in Gothenburg or Stockholm - free for a day
Gallery
People-watching: October 30th
National
Sweden remains fourth best for gender equality
National
Timeline: Julian Assange sex allegations
Sport
World Cup ski race on 'fake' Stockholm slope
Blog updates

29 October

Scariest day (Blogweiser) »

"This is what’s frightening me on Halloween. http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=D4OFZVCu8J0&list=UUJu5J7jG4uoYSjWbpFsJBuQ Follow my posts on FB. ..." READ »

 

24 October

Editor’s blog, October 24th (The Local Sweden) »

"Hi readers, Get ready to read our weekly digest of Swedish news in less than 60 seconds. The..." READ »

 
 
 
Society
An Arctic tradition: hunting and handicraft
Society
Stockholm taxis offer free therapy sessions
National
The Local meets Health Minister Gabriel Wikström
Gallery
Property of the week: Österåker
Society
Homeless turtles get Stockholm police ride
National
Construction worker has 'Sweden's best beard'
National
Italian musician jazzes up Sweden's Lapland
Gallery
Zlatan's career in pictures
Finest.se
Gallery
People-watching: October 25th and 26th
Lifestyle
'Swedes are funnier than they think'
National
Swedish town 'like Venice' after heavy rains
Lifestyle
What's On in Sweden: October 24th - 31st
Gallery
People-watching: October 22nd
Gallery
In Pictures: Prince Carl Philip and Sofia Hellqvist
Lifestyle
Eight things to love about renting a Swedish apartment
National
Vasa ship cannon blasted in Sweden
National
Sub hunt: Day-by-day
National
Sub hunt: Stockholm islanders share their fears with The Local
Sponsored Article
The best options for oversea transfers
National
Dentist gives free care to Roma beggars
Gallery
Property of the week: Malmö
Gallery
PHOTOS: 'Foreign activity' in Swedish waters
TT
Society
QUIZ: How good is your Swedish?
Society
The nudity... and nine other things expat men notice in Sweden
Gallery
People-watching: October 15th
Gallery
Your views: Should outdoor smoking be banned in Sweden?
Business & Money
Sweden has 'large hole' in finances
Sponsored Article
Introducing... Finding a job in Stockholm
Society
Monster salmon caught in northern Sweden
Gallery
Property of the week: Lorensberg
National
Scandinavia's child bride
National
Ebola crisis: How is Sweden preparing?
Business & Money
How Sweden is becoming a cashless society
Gallery
Stockholm Burlesque Festival 2014
National
How a little red horse became a symbol for Sweden
Gallery
People-watching: October 12th
Business & Money
The hottest start-ups from southern Sweden
National
Stockholm is 'best' region for well-being
Gallery
People-watching: October 8th
National
Five facts to know about Patrick Modiano
Sponsored Article
How to catch the first lobster of the year
Team SCA
Sponsored Article
All-female SCA team takes off on Volvo Ocean Race
Latest news from The Local in Austria

More news from Austria at thelocal.at

Latest news from The Local in Switzerland

More news from Switzerland at thelocal.ch

Latest news from The Local in Germany

More news from Germany at thelocal.de

Latest news from The Local in Denmark

More news from Denmark at thelocal.dk

Latest news from The Local in Spain

More news from Spain at thelocal.es

Latest news from The Local in France

More news from France at thelocal.fr

Latest news from The Local in Italy

More news from Italy at thelocal.it

Latest news from The Local in Norway

More news from Norway at thelocal.no

994
jobs available
Swedish Down Town Consulting & Productions
Swedish Down Town Consulting & Productions is an innovative business company which provides valuable assistance with the Swedish Authorities, Swedish language practice and general communications. Call 073-100 47 81 or visit:
www.swedishdowntown.com
PSD Media
PSD Media is marketing company that offers innovative solutions for online retailers. We provide modern solutions that help increase traffic and raise conversion. Visit our site at:
http://psdmedia.se
If you want to drink, that’s your business.
If you want to stop, we can help.

Learn more about English-language Alcoholics Anonymous in Sweden. No dues. No fees. Confidentiality assured.
AA-EUROPE.ORG/SWEDEN