‘Increase penalties for threats against politicians’

People who threaten and harass politicians should face tougher penalties, an inquiry commissioned by the Swedish government has concluded.

Jens Orback, democracy minister, said he was positive towards the idea. Nearly three out of four Riksdag deputies say that they have been subjected to harassment, threats or violence because of their positions. For elected representatives in local government the figure was around one in three.

The figures were compiled by the Committee on Threats and Violence Against Elected Officials, appointed by the government in 2004.

In its final submission, the committee proposes harder punishments for people who commit crimes targeting politicians. This could mean that people convicted of sending threatening letters to politicians could receive higher fines than if the letter had been sent to someone else.

The committee says the tougher penalties are intended to send a signal that society takes such crimes seriously and wants to protect democracy.

“This is also a way to avoid getting cowardly politicians. We want politicians to go out to public meetings and mix with people,” the committee’s chairwoman Berit Högman said.

The proposal means that crimes aimed at politicians will be treated in the same way as crimes against on-duty civil servants.

Orback gave a cautiously positive welcome to the committee’s suggestion.

“I believe it’s important to give protection, not to the politicians but to their work, so that people don’t get intimidated out of taking up this kind of position,” he said.

The minister blamed threats and violence against elected representatives on the public’s lack of faith in politicians.

The committee also wants to give politicians greater workplace rights. A loophole resulting from the fact that Riksdag deputies and other elected politicians are technically not employed currently means they are not covered by much legislation on working rights.