London attacks dominate Almedalen

Sweden's railways and postal service should be run by state-owned monopolies. That's the view of the Left Party, which took centre stage on the final day of the Almedalen political week on Gotland.

In a programme that was inevitably overshadowed by the terrorist attacks in London, troubled Left Party leader Lars Ohly presented new policies in an attempt to move on from the problems that have beset his party in recent weeks.

Ohly wanted to talk about policies such as a 35 hour working week for healthcare assistants and reform of parental leave so that fathers and mothers are forced to share their time off equally.

Yet at Almedalen, Ohly found it difficult to persuade the media to shift the focus away from the party’s internal troubles. A number of senior figures have left the party in the past few months, many of them in protest at Ohly’s description of himself as a communist.

But writing in Göteborgs Posten on Thursday, Ohly said that the recent desertions from the party “must be seen proportionately”.

“People, like politics, develop and change. This means constant re-evaluation, which occasionally leads people to realise that their sympathies lie elsewhere in politics.”

Ohly was the last of Sweden’s party leaders to appear at Almedalen. On Thursday, Liberal Party leader Lars Leijonborg ditched his planned speech on education in favour of a response to the attacks on London.

Sweden must do more to fight terrorism, Leijonborg argued. Allowing the military to play a role in helping the police fight terror was one of the more controversial suggestions in Leijonborg’s speech, in which he also said that Swedes were “astonishingly naive” in their approach to terrorism.

Leijonborg made his speech in front of a British union jack and two Swedish flags. His audience included British Ambassador Anthony Cary, who joined with a 1000-strong audience in a minute’s silence for the dead in London.

Terrorism was also at the heart of Maud Olofsson’s speech on Friday. But the Centre Party leader cautioned against demands for tougher anti-terrorist measures such as bugging and infiltration.

“If we start going down that road we won’t want to live in this society,” she said, arguing that fighting poverty was the best way to fight terrorism.

“Fight poverty, give children good healthcare and education, fight HIV/AIDS, strengthen women’s rights and build democracy,” she said.

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

Ebba Busch, leader of Sweden's Christian Democrats on Monday presented an "abortion contract", which she wants all of Sweden's party leaders to sign. What's going on?

What's the Swedish Christian Democrats' abortion contract all about?

What’s happened? 

Ebba Busch, leader of Sweden’s Christian Democrat party, called a press conference on Monday in which she presented a document that she called “an abortion contract”, which was essentially a pledge to safeguard the right of women in Sweden to have an abortion.  

“There is room for signatures from all eight party leaders,” she said. “I have already signed on behalf of the Christian Democrats.” 

What does the so-called “abortion contract” say? 

The document itself is fairly uncontroversial.

It states simply that Sweden’s law on abortion dates back to 1974, and that it grants women the right to an abortion up until the 18th week of pregnancy, with women seeking abortions later in their pregnancy required to get permission from the National Board of Health and Welfare. 

“Those of us who have signed this document support Sweden’s abortion legislation and promise to defend it if it comes under attack from forces both within our country and from outside,” the document reads.  

Why have the Christian Democrats produced it? 

The decision of the US Supreme Court to overturn Roe vs Wade, and so allow US states to ban abortion has aroused strong feelings in Sweden, as elsewhere, and Busch is seeking to send a strong signal to distance her own Christian party from the US religious right. 

Abortion has been a recurring issue within the Christian Democrats with several politicians and party members critical of abortion. 

Lars Adaktusson, a Christian Democrat MP, was found by the Dagens Nyheter newspaper to have voted against abortion 22 times when he was a member of the European parliament. 

The party has also in the past campaigned for the right of midwives and other medical professionals who are ethically opposed to abortion not to have to take part in the procedure. 

So why aren’t all the other party leaders signing the document? 

Sweden’s governing Social Democrats, and their Green Party allies, dismissed the contract as a political gimmick designed to help the Christian Democrats distance themselves from elements of their own party critical of abortion. 

“It would perhaps be good if Ebba Busch did some homework within her own party to check that there’s 100 percent support for Sweden’s abortion legislation,” Magdalena Andersson, Sweden’s prime minister, said. “That feels like a more important measure than writing contracts between party leaders and trying to solve it that way.”  

In a debate on Swedish television, Green Party leader Märta Stenevi argued that it would be much more significant if Busch’s own MPs and MEPs all signed the document. 

It wasn’t other party leaders who needed to show commitment to abortion legislation, but “her own MPs, MEPs, and not least her proposed government partners in the Sweden Democrats and even some within the Moderate Party”. 

She said it made her “very very worried” to see that the Christian Democrats needed such a contract. “That’s why I see all this more as a clear sign that we need to move forward with protecting the right to abortion in the constitution,” she said. 

How have the other right-wing parties reacted? 

The other right-wing parties have largely backed Busch, although it’s unclear if any other party leaders are willing to actually sign the document. 

Tobias Billström, the Moderates’ group parliamentary leader, retweeted a tweet from Johan Paccamonti, a Stockholm regional politician with the Moderate Party, which criticised the Social Democrats for not signing it, however. 

“It seems to be more important to blow up a pretend conflict than to sign the Christian Democrats’ contract or look at the issue of [including abortion rights in] the constitution, like the Moderates, Liberals and Centre Party want to,” Paccamonti wrote. 

The Liberal Party on Sunday proposed protecting abortion rights in the Swedish constitution, a proposal which has since been backed by the Moderate party and the Centre Party