Time to get the party started

The most disinterested voters in Swedish election history contrived to produce the most interesting result in years in Sweden's leg of the European Parliament vote on Sunday.

The Junilistan party – only created in February to fight the election on the single policy of less centralisation in the EU – picked up 14.4% of the vote and will be filling three of Sweden’s nineteen seats in the European Parliament. All the major parties lost ground with the Moderates being hardest hit.

“This feels very, very good – we have worked extremely hard and now we are home,” said Junilistan’s leader, 68 year old Nils Lundgren, a former economist who now finds himself in the odd position of having parliamentary status with no formal party structure. “We represent the future of Europe.”

To think that three seats out of a total of 732 represents the future of Europe is perhaps a little optimistic, even for an economist. But with the word ‘catastrophy’ being freely attached to every other party’s performance, he had reason to be pleased with himself – although a number of analysts put the party’s success down to a misunderstanding on the part of the voters.

Peter Esaisson, professor of political science at Gothenburg University, told Göteborgs Posten that many used their Junilistan vote as a protest against the EU – even though the Junilistan party supports Swedish membership:

“Either the Junilistan voters didn’t really believe in Nils Lindgren or they didn’t understand what the party stands for. Frankly I think it’s the latter and the polling organisations, throughout the whole public debate, have failed to explain this to people.”

Ironically the party seems to have been helped by the fact that as a non-established party it wasn’t entitled to take part in a televised debate – a communication exercise which Esaiasson believes would settled the Junilistan vote around the anticipated 3%-4%. Nevertheless, buoyed by their extraordinary success in storming the EU Parliament, Nils Lundgren and co are now planning an assault on the Swedish Parliament.

As for election fever – that turned out to be nothing more than a head cold. Only 37.2% of eligible voters bothered to make their democratic mark – the lowest among the ‘old’ EU countries. Voters in Danderyd constituency, just outside Stockholm, were the most committed, with a 53% turnout, while residents of Eda in Värmland might as well up sticks and move to North Korea – only 23% voted.

In a week when Sweden’s entire stock of national interest seems to have been focused on 22 lads kicking a ball around in Portugal, a cartoon in Wednesday’s Göteborgs Posten summed up the public view of the election. A reporter interviews a man in the street.

“Henke or Zlatan?” asks the reporter, referring to two of the country’s star footballers.

“No, sorry,” replies the man. “I’m not that bothered really. We haven’t got any information about what they’re doing down there in Europe… I can’t see how they affect day to day life.”

The results

Social Democrats 24.7% (5 seats)
Moderates 18.2% (3 seats)
Junilistan 14.4% (3 seats)
Left Party 12.8% (2 seats)
Folk Party 9.8% (2 seats)
Centre Party 6.3% (1 seat)
Greens 5.9% (1 seat)
Christian Democrats 5.7% (1 seat)