Swedish politicians pray for victory

The mixture of prayer and politics might seem more in place in an American presidential campaign, but on Friday evening Swedish party leaders will be joining worshippers on Öland for one of the election campaign's most idiosyncratic meetings.

The leaders of all the major political parties in Sweden will be answering questions at the Swedish Mission Covenant Church in Köpingsvik on the Baltic Sea island. The political discussion is set to be interspersed with prayers and hymns. The congregation will be composed of the party faithful and the Christian faithful, and is expected to number between 600 and 2,000.

The tradition of the Köpingsvik church debate started 38 years ago, and the event has been held in the run-up to every election since then.

The 45-60 minute question time is always broken off to sing the party leaders’ favourite hymns.

The first two events were boycotted by the then Communist Party leader Lars Werner. But this time all the main party leaders will turn up to be grilled by leading evangelist Thor-Björn Bastås.

Peter Eriksson says he doesn’t mind being questioned by the religious leader.

“Moreover, he’s good questioner who asks personal questions. That makes it interesting for many people in a different way from the other party leader question and answer sessions,” he said.

Bastås himself thinks it’s good to ask a different type of question.

“I don’t talk so much about tax and social benefits. My aim is to be more personal and to talk more about the inner life,” the pastor said.

“Last time Lars Leijonborg played the piano to [hymn] ‘Ovan Där’ “. Göran Persson stood in the pulpit and led the singing of ‘O Store Gud’ (‘Oh Great God’). [Former Christian Democrat leader] Alf Svensson played the saxaphone to ‘Pärleporten'(‘The Pearly Gates’).