• Sweden edition
 
Opinion
Prime ministers as presidents: A problem for Sweden?
Obama and Reinfeldt during the president's Stockholm visit last year. Photo: AP

Prime ministers as presidents: A problem for Sweden?

Published: 13 May 2014 07:30 GMT+02:00
Updated: 13 May 2014 07:30 GMT+02:00

 
Should Swedes be worried that their leaders are too presidential? The electoral and governing behaviour of Swedish prime ministers increasingly resembles that of American presidents. This has come to pass during the prime ministerships of Göran Persson and Fredrik Reinfeldt. It is not a good trend for the nation, for three reasons.
 
First, the more citizens focus on the person of the prime minister, the less they are likely to hold parties collectively accountable for what happens in government. And the Swedish political system is designed for collective party accountability, not personal rule by a president elected individually as in the US.
 
How does a politics based on personal appeal operate? America has such politics. Virtually all US elections involve a choice between two major party candidates for office and in such a one-on-one competition, personal qualities come to the fore.
 
The Swedish system in contrast involves multiple parties, proportional representation and vote for party lists. Voting behaviour remains largely party oriented. It's a system in which the personal appeal of candidates should play a minimal role in elections.
 
But nevertheless two Swedish prime ministers have pioneered the use of personal appeals in campaigns. Göran Persson’s energetic “alpha male” personality contributed to this trend, for he was certain to garner attention in any public forum. Fredrik Reinfeldt’s lower-key persona has also benefitted by campaign personalism.
 
The marketing of Reinfeldt’s personality has been a staple of Alliance campaigns in 2006 and 2010. Reinfeldt, who in the polls is consistently more popular than his party, has demonstrated the contemporary political benefits of personal campaigning. Personal campaigning likely will remain a more important tactic employed by party leaders in Swedish national elections than it was in decades past. The American style may be here to stay.
 
A second reason for Swedes to worry about the arrival of presidential leadership is illustrated by the fate of US presidents. Most of them suffer from steadily falling support and leave office highly unpopular. Why? One reason is that they build personal cults of leadership by making big promises. Inevitably, reality bites and many important presidential promises remain unfulfilled. 
 
This “expectations gap” had contributed to low public trust in US government. A system with low public trust doesn’t function well. Sweden, the nation whose citizens led the world in their high trust in government in a recent international Gallup poll, should not head down this road.
 
A third reason why Swedes should worry about the presidentialization of their politics is because issue discussions and policymaking can become clouded behind a barrage of personal appeals and attacks. A “food fight” between personalities seldom clarifies or settles issues. In the US, such fights are currently ongoing and any progress on national policy is meager.
 
To preserve collective party accountability in government, reasonable expectations of political leaders, and issues-centered discussions in government, Swedes need to reject presidential styles of politics and governance. Government in Sweden in a team sport of the parties and that serves the nation better than the free-for-all of personal rivalries that is American politics. 
 
Steven Schier is currently Fulbright Professor of American Studies at Uppsala University and is a professor of political science at Carleton College in Minnesota.
 

The Local (news@thelocal.se)

Your comments about this article

Today's headlines
New coalition
New coalition reveals 'compromise' budget
Prime Minister Stefan Löfven and Green Party leader Åsa Romson. Photo: TT

New coalition reveals 'compromise' budget

UPDATED: Prime Minister Stefan Löfven's Social Democrat-led coalition has revealed its first budget proposal, listing plans to spend more than 20 billion kronor. READ  

Weather
Sweden braces for ten centimetres of snow
Kiruna, in far northern Sweden, has already been hit by snow this season. Photo: TT

Sweden braces for ten centimetres of snow

Sweden's weather agency has warned that up to ten centimetres of snow are on the way for Sweden. READ  

Business and Money
Global profit boost for Handelsbanken
Handelsbanken is Sweden's second largest bank. Photo: Bertil Eriksson/TT

Global profit boost for Handelsbanken

Sweden's second-largest bank, Handelsbanken, has reported a rise in third-quarter profits, boosted by higher income from its loan book as it continues its expansion overseas. READ  

Stockholm 'sub hunt'
Sweden pulls back 'submarine' search
Navy vessels remain in the archipelago. Photo: Lars Pehrson/TT

Sweden pulls back 'submarine' search

Sweden is pulling back part of the naval operation which has been searching for a suspected Russian submarine off the coast of Stockholm for nearly a week. READ  

Julian Assange
Assange prepares for court ruling
Julian Assange at Ecuador's embassy in the UK. Photo: Anthony Devlin

Assange prepares for court ruling

WikiLeaks founder Julian Assange says he is "confident" his asylum status will be resolved, as he awaits an imminent ruling on his case by a Swedish court. READ  

Opinion
'Why were we kept in the dark for years?'
The submarine hunt is now in it's sixth day. Photo: TT

'Why were we kept in the dark for years?'

Military expert Johanne Hildebrandt tells The Local that the biggest question in the Stockholm submarine hunt hasn't been answered yet - why don't we know more about the "other operations" from the last few years? READ  

The Local List
Eight things to love about renting in Sweden
Apartments in Sweden are compact. Photo: Shutterstock

Eight things to love about renting in Sweden

A housing crisis means that short-term sublets are the norm in major cities and rent regulation rules are frequently flouted. But this week, The Local's decided to look on the bright side of renting an apartment in Sweden. READ  

Business & Money
Nordea banks big third-quarter profit gain
Nordea's Chief Executive Christian Clausen. Photo: TT

Nordea banks big third-quarter profit gain

Swedish bank Nordea announced on Wednesday a sharp rise in third quarter profits despite the economic slowdown and major outlays for an IT overhaul. READ  

National
Knutby priest faces early release from prison
Knutby in eastern Sweden, the scene of the murder. Photo: TT

Knutby priest faces early release from prison

A former priest in eastern Sweden who was sentenced to life in prison for organizing the murder of his wife has had his sentence reduced. READ  

Opinion
'Sweden will see Russia as a threat again'

'Sweden will see Russia as a threat again'

The Local speaks to one of Europe's leading security experts about why social media meant the Swedish military couldn't keep their 'submarine' search a secret and how she believes the country will ramp up its security against Russia. READ  

RECEIVE OUR NEWSLETTER AND ALERTS
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
Blog updates

21 October

Denna & den här (The Swedish Teacher) »

"?Denna? or ?den hr?? Swedish language students often ask question about different pronouns. One pronoun that especially..." READ »

 

19 October

Getting it (Blogweiser) »

"Follow Joel Sherwood on FB Few watch baseball in Sweden. This is excellent when your team loses..." READ »

 
 
 
National
Get 20% off unique Swedish homeware
National
Dentist gives free care to Roma beggars
Business & Money
Get your own office in Gothenburg or Stockholm - free for a day
Gallery
Property of the week: Malmö
Gallery
PHOTOS: 'Foreign activity' in Swedish waters
Gallery
People-watching: October 19th
TT
Society
QUIZ: How good is your Swedish?
Lifestyle
What's on in Sweden: October 17th - 24th
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
What's on in Sweden: October 10th - 17th
National
Stockholm is 'best' region for well-being
Gallery
People-watching: October 8th
National
Five facts to know about Patrick Modiano
Society
My Swedish Career: A French fashionista in Sweden
Society
Swede's anti-bully Facebook tale goes viral
Society
Have you seen Sweden's viral subway cancer campaign?
National
Isis: Swedes linked to Turkish prisoner swap
National
Should Swedes be banned from buying sex abroad?
Gallery
Fredrik Reinfeldt's leaving presents
National
Five Swedish TV shows you shouldn't miss
Gallery
A tool belt, a casserole, and a book. Fredrik Reinfeldt's parliament gifts
TT
Lifestyle
Top five winter festivals in Sweden
TT
National
Sami reindeer herders win mine reprieve
Gallery
Property of the Week: Gamla Enskede
Sponsored Article
How to catch the first lobster of the year
Politics
Ten new minister faces you should know
Tech
First womb transplant baby in world born in Sweden
Gallery
People-watching: October 5th
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

979
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