Leaders face Sweden’s youth

Young Swedes grilled the country’s politicians on Monday night, asking party leaders about everything from their thoughts on nose piercings to employment protection.

Appearing on TV4, the seven politicians – the four liberal-conservative Alliance parties sitting on the right and the three left-wing parties on the left – were in the limelight answering random questions from the crowd and from the program’s hosts.

The Alliance party leaders were asked if they planned on implementing the Centre Party’s proposal to tackle youth employment, where employers could fire a worker under the age of 26 during the first two years.

Both the Christian Democrats’ Göran Hägglund and the Liberal Party’s Lars Leijonborg thought there were better and more effective solutions for increasing the number of jobs than Centre’s recommendation.

Fredrik Reinfeldt, leader of the Moderate Party, said he would have rather seen an agreement within his Alliance regarding lowering employers’ taxes and lower taxes for lower and middle income workers.

Prime Minister Göran Persson, who heads the Social Democrat-led government, tried to be optimistic with his youth audience.

“Now we are seeing how fast new jobs are growing and how unemployment is sinking, and not just among youth,” Persson said.

He pointed out to the government had spent money on ‘plus jobs’ (government-funded job schemes) in the municipalities. The Green Party’s Maria Wetterstrand agreed with him that the fight against youth unemployment has failed and additional measures are needed.

Responding to a question from a member of the audience, Leijonborg repeated his party’s line that fluency in Swedish should be a requirement for obtaining citizenship.

“We will push that question during the elections,” he said to TT after the debate.

Other questions asked by the audience dealt with schools, the military and the environment, such as, “Will use of atomic energy continue to decrease?”

Persson said other nuclear plants would follow the shutdown of Barsebäck as and when new sources of electricity are found to replace the energy lost.

The conservative-liberal Alliance is virtually tied with the current governing coalition of the Social Democrat, Left and Green parties. National elections are September 17.