Sweden’s politicians step up for English debate

There can’t be many countries where you could persuade four high-level politicians to turn up for a televised election debate in their second language.

But this is Sweden, and Swedish politicians are as keen as the rest of their fellow countrymen to show-off their English skills – as well as to give people who understand English better than Swedish the chance to hear the issues debated.

That’s why on Wednesday evening SVT will be showing Election 2006, a one-hour debate between representatives of the two blocs competing to form Sweden’s next government.

Presenter Keith Foster says that the main aim of the debate is to give immigrants a better understanding of the election, with four leading politicians discussing issues including unemployment and immigrants’ integration in Sweden.

But the programme should be interesting even for people with a grasp of Swedish and for Swedes themselves.

Doing a debate in English makes it harder for politicians to be evasive, Foster says:

“When politicians are asked questions in a foreign language, it’s harder for them to avoid answering.”

“It also keeps the debate at a basic level – you don’t have to have a knowledge of Swedish political history to be able to grasp it,” he says.

The debate, pre-recorded last week, will also be unusual for only featuring women: the Social Democrats are represented by sustainable development minister Mona Sahlin and foreign aid minister Carin Jämtin, while the Alliance is represented by Centre Party leader Maud Olofsson and the Moderates’ Ewa Björling.

The debate takes place on Wednesday, 6th September, at 9:30 pm on SVT1.