• Sweden's news in English
 

Prime ministers as presidents: A problem for Sweden?

Published: 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
EXCLUSIVE
English remix of Swedish 'genitals' song released
'Willie' and 'Twinkle' are the main characters in the new song. Photo: SVT

English remix of Swedish 'genitals' song released

A Swedish children's song about genitals that went viral earlier this year has just been released in English as its makers aim to make the track a global sensation. The Local was given a world exclusive preview of the song as its composer prepared to hit the Swedish festival scene with the original version. READ  

What's on in Sweden
What's on in Sweden: March 5th - 11th
A Game of Thrones exhibition is opening in Stockholm this weekend. Photo: Helen Sloan/TT

What's on in Sweden: March 5th - 11th

This week there’s something for everyone: from a children’s film festival in southern Sweden to an exhibition to delight Game of Thrones fans in the heart of Stockholm. Find out what's going on in your Swedish town. READ  

Asylum seeker drop in Sweden and Denmark
Asylum seekers in Katrineholm, Sweden in February 2015. Photo: TT

Asylum seeker drop in Sweden and Denmark

The number of people applying for asylum in Sweden was cut in half in January, compared to figures from September 2014, but the country remains set to experience record refugee arrivals throughout the year. READ  

EXCLUSIVE
Swedish drug addicts seek 'better' help in UK
Castle Craig. Photo: Castle Craig

Swedish drug addicts seek 'better' help in UK

One of the UK's leading drug and alcohol rehabilitation centres is opening its doors to Swedish drug addicts and expats living in Scandinavia amid concerns that the treatment in Sweden is hampered by bureaucracy and fails to offer therapy in English. READ  

Alfred Nobel's will on display for first time
Alfred Nobel (right). Photo: TT

Alfred Nobel's will on display for first time

Alfred Nobel's will creating the prestigious awards that bear his name will go on public display for the first time in Stockholm next week, a spokeswoman has revealed. READ  

Norwegian hires rival crews as strike continues
Services out of Stockholm's Arlanda airport were cancelled on Wednesday. Photo: TT

Norwegian hires rival crews as strike continues

Budget Scandinavian carrier Norwegian has asked Small Planet Airlines to operate some of its flights in Europe after around 700 of the company’s pilots went on strike. But dozens of services from cities including Stockholm, Oslo and Copenhagen remain cancelled. READ  

Swedish police quiz man over apartment blast
Two men died in an apartment blast in Nyköping. Photo: Johan Nilsson/TT

Swedish police quiz man over apartment blast

A 30-year-old man is being quizzed by police after two men died when a bomb exploded in an apartment in the Swedish town of Nyköping, it has emerged. READ  

Swedish Princess to give birth to baby in June
Sweden's Princess Madeleine and Chris O'Neill. Photo: Jonas Ekströmer/TT

Swedish Princess to give birth to baby in June

Sweden’s Princess Madeleine is set to give birth to her second child in June. The Queen let slip the month during a state visit to Nordic neighbour Finland. READ  

Copenhagen shootings
Lars Vilks' first talk since Copenhagen cancelled
Controversial Swedish artist Lars Vilks. Photo: Bertil Ericson/SCANPIX

Lars Vilks' first talk since Copenhagen cancelled

UPDATED: The controversial Swedish artist who was the presumed target of one of the Copenhagen terror attacks last month was set to make his first public appearance on Friday. But the talk has been cancelled over security concerns. READ  

Jay Z Swedish music takeover bid blocked
Jay Z performing in Stockholm on his 2013 world tour. Photo: Jessica Gow/TT

Jay Z Swedish music takeover bid blocked

A 464 million kronor bid ($56m) by rap mogul Jay Z to take over Scandinavian music streaming service Wimp – Spotify's biggest rival – has been blocked by the firm's Swedish owners. READ  

RECEIVE OUR NEWSLETTER AND ALERTS
Gallery
People-watching: March 4th
Sponsored Article
'Sweden needs to get its act together'
National
Just four Pegida supporters turn out to anti-Islam rally in Sweden
Accelerated for Ice Music
Dylan guitarist makes music history in Sweden
National
Could March bring record-high temperatures to Sweden?
Blog updates

27 February

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

"Our most read story this week got picked up by global media from Al Jazeera to..." READ »

 

18 February

The mysterious -s, part 2 (The Swedish Teacher) »

"-s expressing “each other” (reciprocal verbs) You have most likely used this form of the verbs..." READ »

 
 
 
Sponsored Article
Expert US tax preparation for Americans in Sweden
Gallery
Property of the week: Eknäs, Nacka
Lifestyle
Madonna set for first Stockholm gig
Sponsored Article
Ten tips for succeeding as a start-up in Sweden
Technology
How you could soon be charging your phone from Ikea furniture
Sponsored Article
Tourist or lifer: what sort of expat are you?
Gallery
People-watching: February 27th - March 1st
Business & Money
Ten Swedish start-ups you haven't heard of (yet)
National
How could Swedes' passion for 'fika' help cut nerve disease?
National
IN PICTURES: Swedes in 'ring of peace' protest
National
Why Copenhagen attacks led a Swedish uni to cancel artist's lecture
Gallery
IN PICTURES: Super cute sloth twins charm visitors to Swedish zoo
Lifestyle
Meet Sweden's first woman chef to win a Michelin star
Lifestyle
What's on in Sweden: February 26th - March 5th
Accelerated for Ice Music
What is Bob Dylan's guitarist doing in northern Sweden?
Features
How well do you know Sweden's top celebrity couples?
Business & Money
Are company boards 'too white' in Sweden?
Gallery
People-watching: February 25th
Technology
Sweden is dubbed second most 'digital' nation in European Union
National
Why more Swedes want a sex change
National
The return of Sweden's Ace of Base
National
Why has Julian Assange's case been going on for so long?
National
'21' or 'IS'? Swedish police confuse birthday with Islamist extremism
National
Spring has sprung in Sweden
Gallery
Property of the week: Ängelholm
National
How to never miss your favourite weekly features on The Local
National
Is Sweden home to the world's oldest living cat?
Gallery
IN PICTURES: The life and career of Fredrik Reinfeldt
Gallery
IN PICTURES: Princess Estelle through the years
National
Why are Swedish Jews worried?
Gallery
People-watching: February 19th-22nd
National
'Racist' bird names banned in Sweden
Lifestyle
What's on in Sweden this week
National
Nobel prize to go under hammer
National
Swede named 'Fanny' banned from getting UK loyalty card
National
Spotlight on the Swedes that could be funding Islamists
Sponsored Article
Are you an American expat? How to face FATCA
Gallery
People-watching: February 18th
National
Is a chocolate crime wave sweeping across Sweden?
National
What we know about the Copenhagen shootings suspect
National
Danish Ambassador: 'We'll live our lives the way we always have'
National
What does this '90s pop act have to do with a former minister?
Lifestyle
How to embrace Sweden's creamy semla bun tradition
Sponsored Article
'Immigration is critical' for Stockholm’s future
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

976
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