• Sweden's news in English
 

Have Sweden's politicians totally lost their sense of direction?

Published: 14 Jan 2014 15:50 GMT+01:00

Jonas Sjöstedt, leader of Sweden's Left Party (Vänsterpartiet), recently said that his party knows “the difference between right and left”. This remark, made during the opening speech of the party’s convention, was clearly aimed at Social Democrat leader Stefan Löfven who a few months ago proclaimed: "I find the concept of right and left so difficult; I don’t think anybody can define what is right and what is left."

No one doubts that the Left Party, which evolved out of Sweden's own Communist party, knows the difference between right and left. After all, the party's programme still explains that as “socialism realizes the human right to control one’s own work, the ownership of means of production will be repealed altogether”. In virtually all issues, the Left Party stays true to its name, taking stands to the left of all other parliamentary parties in Sweden.

Sjöstedt is, quite cleverly, trying to ride on the left-wing wave in Swedish politics by attracting left-leaning Social Democrat voters. Löfven, on the other hand, knows too well that one of the main obstacles for him to becoming Sweden's prime minister after the September elections is that many centrist voters are repelled by the radical ideas of the Left Party. With that in mind, the Social Democrat party leader is attempting to move his party to the center of the Swedish political spectrum. Löfven is signaling that he would like to co-operate with center-right parties like the Liberal Party (Folkpartiet) rather than the Left Party.

The quotes by Sjöstedt and Löfven are interesting because they tell us much about how the parties are maneuvering in hopes of optimizing future electoral success. But the quotes are also a sign of how it's becoming increasingly difficult to distinguish left from right in Sweden's political landscape today – at least when it comes to slimming down the size of central government administration.

Recently, the Social Democrats promised to cut the scope of the Swedish central government by 10 billion kronor ($1.5 billion). This move is smart, since it is about giving voters what they desire.

Public opinion surveys conducted in 1997, 2002, and 2010 paint a clear picture of Swedes' attitudes toward government and municipal administration. Six out of ten voters want to reduce the tax money aimed at these parts of the public sector, whilst merely three percent want to see an increase. It is also smart since it attracts the attention of voters with liberal, free-market sympathies who are particularly sceptical of government waste. Sweden's Social Democrats can, for example, point to the fact that their party colleagues, the Danish Social Democrats, are already working to slim Danish government agencies.

Of course, cutting down the size of government was a promise made by the parties of Sweden's governing centre-right Alliance coalition way back in 2006. And as liberal author Henrik RS Olsson has shown in a book published in late 2012, the government has indeed cut the number of agencies somewhat since coming to power.

But the government has also created new agencies, and expanded existing ones. The end result is that Sweden's central government has actually expanded both in terms of the number of employees and operating costs. As the newspaper Barometern recently wrote, today Sweden has anywhere between 245 to 468 government agencies, depending on how you count.

By promising to slim down central government, the Social Democrats are blurring out what is right and left on the Swedish spectrum. And the centre-right Moderates find it difficult to react to Löfven's new move. Moderate MP Anna Kindberg Batra, head of the Riksdag's Committee on Finance, criticized the idea by saying: “Ten billion is a lot of money. It can have consequences for thousands, maybe tens of thousands of public employees and lead to some agencies having to shut down”.

So, the leading left-leaning party aims for reducing the scope of government bureaucracy, whilst the leading right-leaning party opposes the same idea. We really do live in a time when right is difficult to distinguish from left. 

Dr. Nima Sanandaji, a Swedish writer of Kurdish origin, has written numerous books and reports about policy issues in Sweden. He is a regular contributor to The Local.

The Local (news@thelocal.se)

Your comments about this article

Today's headlines
Spring budget
Petrol to cost more as Greens get their way
Social Democrat Finance Minister Magdalena Andersson and her Green Party deputy Per Bolund at a press conference on Friday. Photo: Henrik Montgomery/TT.

Petrol to cost more as Greens get their way

Sweden's left-wing government proposed a hike in petrol taxes on Friday, citing the drop in oil prices and pressure put on it by its coalition partner the Greens. READ  

Swedish Nobel laureate Tranströmer dies aged  83
Swedish poet Tomas Tranströmer. Photo: Fredrik Sandberg/SCANPIX

Swedish Nobel laureate Tranströmer dies aged 83

UPDATED: Swedish poet and winner of the Nobel Prize in Literature Tomas Tranströmer has passed away at the age of 83, his publishers confirmed on Friday. READ  

Sweden Democrat head: 'I'm on antidepressants'
Sweden Democrat leader Jimmie Åkesson before his sick leave. Photo: Sören Andersson/TT

Sweden Democrat head: 'I'm on antidepressants'

Jimmie Åkesson, who is poised to return as leader of Sweden's nationalist party in April after months of sick leave, has revealed he is taking antidepressants for exhaustion and sleeping difficulties in an interview set to air late on Friday. READ  

Is Swedish super coach Pia Sundhage quitting?
Pia Sundhage, left, celebrating after Sweden beats Scotland in the World Cup qualifier. Photo: Adam Ihse/TT

Is Swedish super coach Pia Sundhage quitting?

Swedish football coach Pia Sundhage's contract leading the women's national team runs out next year. And she has not yet made up her mind as to whether or not she wants to stay on. “If they asked me today, I would say no,” she told The Local on Friday. READ  

Stieg Larsson's partner blasts trilogy sequel
Eva Gabrielsson, Stieg Larsson's former partner. Photo: TT

Stieg Larsson's partner blasts trilogy sequel

The partner of Sweden's best-known contempory author Stieg Larsson has criticised the decision to publish a fourth installment of his Girl with the Dragon Tattoo trilogy, written by another author. READ  

Ikea flat-pack shelters set to house refugees
Ikea flat-pack shelters will be delivered to refugee camps. Photo: AP Photo/Mark Lennihan

Ikea flat-pack shelters set to house refugees

Flat-pack shelters produced by Swedish furniture giant Ikea are set to provide temporary homes to thousands of refugees in camps around the world. READ  

Swedish PM faces rights pressure in China
Sweden's PM Stefan Löfven talks to reporters outside the Swedish Embassy in Beijing. Photo: Karin Olander/TT

Swedish PM faces rights pressure in China

Swedish Prime Minister Stefan Löfven landed in China on Friday for a two-day visit. But on the home front he has been facing pressure to push more to get human rights on the agenda when he meets with Chinese leaders. READ  

The Local Recipes
How to Make Chocolate Truffles for Easter
Chocolate Truffles. Photo: John Duxbury

How to Make Chocolate Truffles for Easter

If you are looking for a fun alternative to Easter eggs, why not try Swedish chocolate truffles. They are delicious, easy to make and kids can help you make these delightful sweets. Food writer John Duxbury shares his recipe with The Local. READ  

Homeless to 'skip' long rental queues in capital
There is a long queue for housing in Stockholm. Photo: Image Bank Sweden

Homeless to 'skip' long rental queues in capital

Some of Stockholm's homeless population are set to be offered permanent accommodation in the city centre, as part of efforts to help them reintegrate into society. But the move is a highly controversial one in the capital where there is a long queue for first hand rental contracts among tax-paying residents. READ  

Nine more jailed for Stockholm Nazi attack
Police in Kärrtorp in December 2013. Photo: TT

Nine more jailed for Stockholm Nazi attack

Prison sentences of between three and eight months have been handed down to nine men involved in a neo-Nazi demonstration in Stockholm in 2013. Swedish courts have already punished fourteen others for their role in the brutal violence. READ  

RECEIVE OUR NEWSLETTER AND ALERTS
Society
How to never miss your favourite weekly features on The Local
Gallery
People-watching: March 25th
Sponsored Article
Why Stockholm is the 'Boston of Europe'
National
Which words are changing in Sweden's latest dictionary?
Sponsored Article
'Sweden must embrace openness and diversity'
Blog updates

27 March

Celebrating Three Great English Exports In 2015 (The Diplomatic Dispatch) »

"Deputy Head of Mission Aidan Liddle joins us for another guest blog today. In 2015, England..." READ »

 

27 March

Editor’s blog, March 27th (The Local Sweden) »

"Hi readers, Europe remains in shock following the Germanwings plane crash in the Alps that killed 150..." READ »

 
 
 
National
Is this house 'un-Swedish'?
National
Sweden pays tribute to victims of Germanwings Alps crash
National
Neo-Nazi activity rising in Sweden
National
How to make Swedish Waffles
Gallery
Property of the week: Torslanda - Hjuvik
National
Stray dog Arthur moves in with Swedish owners
Sponsored Article
Ten tips for succeeding as a start-up in Sweden
National
Sweden triples maximum limit at asylum centres
Gallery
People-watching: March 21st
National
Why elderly Swedes are among the world's happiest people
National
TIMELINE: Gothenburg shootings
National
Can Sweden's feminist party score success in neighbouring Norway?
National
Why Brits can't get enough of Sweden
Gallery
IN PICTURES: Sweden's solar eclipse
National
What's on in Sweden this week
Royal wedding countdown begins
National
Viking ring reveals Islamic ties
National
TIMELINE: Julian Assange sex allegations in Sweden
Gallery
People-watching: March 18th
National
One in three Russian diplomats are spies, says Sweden's Security Service
National
Hitchcock opera set to hit Gothenburg stage
Gallery
IN PICTURES: Northern Lights on show across Sweden
Technology
Why Swedish pop star Robyn is pushing for more girls in tech
Gallery
Property of the week: Umeå
National
Introducing Sweden's Eurovision 2015 entry Måns Zelmerlöw
Gallery
People-watching: March 13th - 15th
National
Why have Swedish prosecutors made a U-turn in Julian Assange case?
Sponsored Article
How Sweden and India can work together
Politics
Who's the new young leader of the Christian Democrats?
Travel
Why are Swedes so obsessed with Mallorca?
Gallery
Princess Estelle celebrates her mother's name day in Stockholm
National
What's on in Sweden this week
National
Obama's anti-Semitism team heads to Stockholm and Malmö
Gallery
People-watching: March 11th
Technology
How a Swedish app is teaching children to empathize
Swedish grandparents put on disguises to snatch baby
National
Why Sweden may not be as gender equal as you think
Politics
Why does Russia blame Sweden for the crisis in Ukraine?
Gallery
Property of the week: Smögen
National
Listen to the English remix of a Swedish 'genitals' song gone viral
Technology
'Swedish women are strong and ambitious'
National
Why are 11 Roma people suing the Swedish state?
Sponsored Article
Expert US tax preparation for Americans in Sweden
Sponsored Article
Stockholm job fair helps immigrant entrepreneurs
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

3,492
jobs available
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:
psdmedia.se