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POLITICS

Sweden?s tax rates ?could get even higher?

Swedish voters hoping that tax might fall after the next election could be in for a disappointment. Although the country already has some of the highest personal tax rates in the world, the ruling Social Democrats paved the way this week for tax rises. Meanwhile a major opposition party, in an apparent bid to attract Social Democrat voters, said that it now no longer wanted tax cuts.

As the Liberal Party gathered for its annual conference, the party’s pollsters were presenting the profile of the type of person that Liberals need to attract to gain more support at the general election in 2006 – and bring the centre-right to power.

Their target voter is ‘Lennart’, a middle-aged man from Västerås working in the private sector, who voted for the Social Democrats at the last election. Lennart, says polling company Demoskop, wants to maintain standards in public healthcare and welfare, but wants to fight abuse of the welfare system.

It was against this background that Liberal leader Lars Leijonborg broke with party tradition, and came out in favour of a tax freeze. Until now, Liberals have argued for reduced taxes, but Leijonborg told Dagens Nyheter on Friday that he was “ready to accept high taxes”, saying that the party believed, “like most Swedes” in the virtues of welfare and spending on public services.

DN said that the Liberals were trying to learn from the success of Danish ruling party Venstre, which went on to overturn the ruling Social Democrats’ majority by arguing for a tax freeze. The paper also said that Leijonborg was trying to avoid the criticism levelled at the Moderate Party, with which the Liberals are allied. Critics have said that the Moderates’ plans for tax reductions are unrealistic.

Leijonborg said that he hoped that the tax freeze would be adopted as the alliance’s official policy. Yet there was a distinctly lukewarm reaction from the other parties that make up the right-wing block. Mikael Odenberg from the alliance’s largest member, the Moderate Party, said that a freeze was “a good start,” but said that his party would not be satisfied in the long term for Sweden to maintain “the world’s highest tax burden.”

Yet while the opposition might no longer be unanimously in favour of tax cuts, comments this week by ministers favouring higher taxes showed that a gulf remained between the right and left of Swedish politics. Prime Minister Göran Persson said that taxes would have to go up sometime in the next parliament in order to maintain Sweden’s health service.

Confirming Persson’s line, Finance Minister Per Nuder said that if Swedish voters wanted a better welfare state in the future, there could be a need for higher taxes. He indicated that local taxes would be the most likely to be raised.

“We Social Democrats will not hesitate to raise taxes if that is necessary to defend our welfare model,” he told Swedish Radio.

Sources: Svenska Dagbladet, Sveriges Radio, Dagens Nyheter

POLITICS

Swedish party leader calls for chemical castration of sex offenders

Sweden's Christian Democrats have called for tougher sentences for sex offenders and making release conditional on chemical castration.

Swedish party leader calls for chemical castration of sex offenders

The Swedish Christian Democrats (KD) leader has called for the chemical castration of certain sex offenders as part of plans for a tougher grip on sexual crime and punishment in Sweden.

Speaking to the Swedish parliament on July 1st, KD party leader Ebba Busch said, “Every day, 27 rapes are reported. How many days must pass before the government takes action?”

“Today we propose that rapists and people who commit sexual crimes against children should be able to be chemically castrated.”

The controversial chemical castration proposal was the headline grabbing soundbite in a broader set of proposals to recalibrate the structure of Sweden’s sexual crime sentencing.

Among KD’s proposed sentencing changes is a life sentence for the aggravated rape of a child, the removal of automatic conditional release for sex offenders, and an increase in the sentence for aggravated rape up to a maximum of 25 years.

In addition, they want a “monitoring period” for convicts who have been released, equivalent to one third of the sentence served.

They also want to establish a national knowledge centre for sexual violence where people who feel that they have “problematic sexuality” can receive support. The center must also “be able to administer chemical castration on a voluntary basis to those who are concerned about unwanted sexual thoughts and impulses and have a compulsive sexuality”.

READ ALSO: What’s the Swedish Christian Democrats’ abortion contract all about?

Chemical castration, she suggested, should be implemented as a condition of release for some sexual offenders. “It may mean that if a person like Nytorgsmannen is to be able to become a free man, a chemical castration must have taken place before the release,” Busch said, referring to Andreas Holm, a man sentenced in 2021 for 35 different crimes including 24 rapes.

But this is not the first time the Christian Democrats have toyed with the idea of chemical castration as a form of legal punishment. As far back as 20 years ago, under former leader Alf Svensson, the right-wing party raised the idea of conditional chemical castration of rapists and pedophiles.

At the time the proposal was rejected by all other parties.

Chemical castration, the process of preventing sex hormone production through chemicals, can reduce sexual libido but the effects on those with deviant behaviours are relatively unknown.

Chemical castration can also prove costly as it is not a one-off treatment but rather requires regular interventions, which means the police would be reliant on those sentences to chemical castration making regular trips to the authorities for further treatment.

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