• Sweden's news in English
 
app_header_v3

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

The Local · 14 Jan 2014, 15:50

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that as “socialism realizes the human right to control one’s own work, the ownership of means of production will be repealed altogether”.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.

Story continues below…

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
Swedish economic growth 'best in Nordics'
A new report says Sweden has the best growth prospects of the Nordics. Photo: Fredrik Sandberg/TT

Sweden's economy is out-pacing its Nordic rivals, but high levels of household debt are still a problem.

Why Swedish football is introducing a green card
Swedish referees could soon be reaching for a green card. Photo: Andreas Hillergren/TT

You’ve heard of the red and yellow cards, but how about the green card?

Sweden won't charge foreign minister over 'queue jump'
Sweden's foreign minister, Margot Wallström. Photo: Henrik Montgomery/TT

Sweden's foreign minister Margot Wallström will not be charged over claims she was given special treatment to secure an apartment in Stockholm.

Swedes don’t want to join the euro - now or ever
Euros? Nej tack! Photo: Jens Meyer/AP

We'll keep our krona, thank you very much.

Opinion
'Bigotry is not dead in Sweden – we still need to talk'
Stockholm Pride 2015. Vilhelm Stokstad/TT

Sweden still needs to do more to confront intolerance, argues columnist Paul Connolly.

Spotify gains listeners but it's still bleeding cash
Spotify's offices in Stockholm. Photo: Lars Pehrson/SvD/TT

The Swedish streaming giant expanded rapidly last year but hasn't yet turned a profit.

Man facing trial over refugee worker's murder
The man during a preliminary court hearing earlier this year. Photo: Adam Ihse/TT

A man accused of killing a worker at a home for young refugees earlier this year has been charged with her murder.

Smombie Swedes hurt in smartphone accidents
Don't text and drive! Photo: Björn Lindgren/TT

The injury count of Swedes' tech-addiction revealed.

Interview
'Fika is a coffee break, with emphasis on break'
All pictures from the documentary 'Fika: to have coffee'. Photo: Fabian Schmid

The Local speaks to Zürich-based budding filmmaker Fabian Schmid about why he decided to travel to Sweden to shoot a documentary about the unique Nordic 'fika' concept.

Swedish lay judge quits over Soldiers of Odin link
Soldiers of Odin members photographed in Norway. Photo: NTB scanpix

UPDATED: A Swedish lay judge has stepped down after admitting he patrolled Stockholm with an anti-immigrant vigilante group.

Sponsored Article
How to find student housing in Malmö: 5 tips
National
Is this the most Swedish tattoo ever?
Sponsored Article
'Sweden gives artists the space to follow their dreams'
Gallery
People-watching: May 20th-22nd
National
How to really annoy a Swede abroad
Blog updates

20 May

Editor’s blog, May 20th (The Local Sweden) »

"Hello readers, Do not mention Abba! Or cuckoo clocks! Our most read article this week was…" READ »

 

17 May

What about “att”? (The Swedish Teacher) »

"Hej! It often seems like the small words are the ones that cause the most confusion.…" READ »

 
 
 
Sponsored Article
Food, fun, and reliable sun: Summer in Dubrovnik
National
How this war veteran is warming hearts in Sweden
Sponsored Article
How Stockholm startups help new employees feel at home
Gallery
People-watching: May 18th
National
How this Swede's viral ad totally nailed Stockholm's housing crisis
Gallery
Property of the week: Vasastaden, Gothenburg
Sponsored Article
Can you afford to live in Stockholm? (Hint: yes)
Lifestyle
The best Swedish cities for dating
Sponsored Article
Eat, learn, live: unforgettable holidays in France
Gallery
People-watching: May 13th-15th
Culture
BLOG: Eurovision as it happened
Sponsored Article
'Only soft power can defeat radicalism'
National
Why a 116-year-old Swede isn't the world's oldest woman
Sponsored Article
Why Stockholm attracts so many successful researchers
National
Youth unemployment falls in Sweden
Gallery
People-watching: May 11th
Sponsored Article
'Sweden gives artists the space to follow their dreams'
Gallery
People-watching: May 6th-8th
Sponsored Article
Retiring abroad: ensuring your health is covered
Politics
Why Sweden's Greens are in free fall
Sponsored Article
Can you afford to live in Stockholm? (Hint: yes)
National
Can these cartoon Swedes help foreigners blend in?
Sponsored Article
Stockholm makes it easier for refugees to meet startups
National
Why this fearless woman is the talk of Sweden
National
Sweden set for sunny weekend
Fastighetsbyrån
Gallery
Property of the week: Vollsjö, Sjöbo
Features
How to be a cool Swede during a hot summer
Gallery
People-watching: April 29th - May 1st
Analysis & Opinion
Why Sweden's fretting about Brexit
National
INTERVIEW: Swedish police officer 'beat me up and used racial slurs'
3,292
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