Swedish politicians propose alcohol-free Riksdag

From official receptions and power lunches to office parties and other social engagements, the calendar of a Swedish member of parliament is filled with opportunities to have a few drinks.

The situation is a cause for concern among several members of parliament’s Sobriety Group.

According to interviews with fourteen members of the Sobriety Group conducted by Svenska Dagbladet, there is broad concern in the group for the alcohol consumption habits of Sweden’s elected officials.

“When I sat at a meeting last Tuesday at 3 o’clock there was a member of parliament who was quite intoxicated. It was really a sad sight. He was red-faced and smelled of alcohol. It was easy to see he was drunk,” said Sobriety Group member Mehmet Kaplan, a Green party MP.

Kaplan is certain that every elected official knows someone who has been drunk on the job, “but no one talks about it.”

Group chairman and social worker Egon Frid of the Left Party adds that the Riksdag provides ample opportunities to see alcohol’s negative consequences. He admits seeing parliamentary colleagues under the influence during working hours.

”It’s an unfortunate aspect of working in parliament. It’s not healthy to have such easy access to alcohol in and around one’s job,” said Frid.

Others in the Sobriety Group are not as concerned about the situation.

”Certainly people drink, but I can’t say that it’s a big problem,” said Ingemar Vänerlöv of the Christian Democratic party.

While the government has a policy for how to handle issues of alcohol and drug use that applies to both civil servants and politicians, the Riksdag currently lacks any rules governing work-related alcohol consumption.

The Riksdag’s Sobriety Group is now demanding regulation following a decision taken during their annual meeting in December to force the issue.

“I think the Riksdag ought to be completely alcohol free during official functions,” said Green party MP Helena Leander. “At the very least we have to have an alcohol policy.”

Sobriety Group spokesman Per Westerberg of the Moderate party wouldn’t comment on the group’s exact wishes, but says he is doing his utmost to maintain a level of “public restraint” during official functions.