A royal mess: Why Sweden can’t have its own Obama

At a time when the United States has just elected its first black president, Noel McCarthy wishes Sweden would reconsider its constitution in order to enable greater diversity when choosing a head of state.

A royal mess: Why Sweden can’t have its own Obama

Sweden’s status as a constitutional monarchy is at odds with its own claim that all public power “proceeds from the people”. Within the country’s constitution lies a central article that in some ways reduces Sweden to a semi-democratic anachronism within the EU:

“[T]he King shall always profess the pure evangelical faith, as adopted and explained in the unaltered confession of Augsburg and in the Resolution of the Uppsala meeting of the year 1593, princes and princesses of the Royal House shall be brought up in that same faith and within the Realm. Any member of the Royal Family not professing this faith shall be excluded from all rights of succession.”

Sweden has made something of a name for itself during the last twenty years for being unswerving in its insistence that third world countries from Nicaragua to Iraq, the Palestinian territories to Guatemala and Burma to Zimbabwe, elect democratic heads of state. But for a country that prides itself as being something of a beacon of democracy, Sweden’s rights of succession are absurd, sectarian and discriminatory.

Why the double standard? Why are the democratic political appointments of heads of states in third world countries the target of such passionate engagement among Swedish politicians while the status quo is cheerily maintained within the embryo of the supposedly non-discriminatory and democratic society of Sweden in 2009?

Despite the predictable and somewhat fringe criticism of the prevailing order by the Social Democrat’s youth section, the Left Party and a small Republican movement, no serious debate on the issue has taken place in recent decades.

One clue to this unspoken and somewhat consensual approval has been revealed in periodic opinion polls generally in favour of the royal order.

So what powers does the king have? Though the king’s role is expressly limited in the constitution to ‘ceremonial functions’, the position bestows on him a huge amount of informal power for which he cannot be held to account by the electorate. This became apparent during the Asian tsunami crisis, for example, when Swedes turned to their king for the leadership many felt was lacking in the government.

To be fair, Sweden does have a functioning and relatively efficient system of governance rooted in the decisions of the Riksdag. The active parliamentary system composed of parliamentary committees prepare and investigate proposed legislation in a fashion consistent with internationally accepted norms; indeed it is replicated somewhat in the processes of the EU parliamentary system.

But this transparent approach to law-making stands in glaring contrast to the highly discriminatory and sectarian clause in the constitution pertaining to the appointment of Sweden’s head of state.

Noel McCarthy has a Political Science degree from a Swedish university and has lived in his adopted country for eighteen years.


Scandal-hit Frenchman ‘groped Sweden’s Crown Princess’

Jean-Claude Arnault, the French photographer at the centre of the crisis at the Swedish Academy, has been accused of sexually harassing no less a figure than Sweden’s Crown Princess Victoria.

Scandal-hit Frenchman 'groped Sweden's Crown Princess'
Crown Princess Victoria. Photo: Henrik Montgomery/TT
According to the Svenska Dagbladet newspaper, three sources, at least one within the Academy, claim to have witnessed Arnault groping the Crown Princess’s bottom at an event put on by the body, which awards the Nobel Prize for Literature. 
The Swedish feminist Ebba Witt-Brattström, who was present at the event at Villa Bergsgården in Stockholm, told both Expressen and Swedish broadcaster SVT that one of Victoria's aides had leapt to her rescue.
“Her female aide threw herself forward and pushed him away,” she said. “She pushed away his hand.” 
After the alleged transgression, the Academy’s then Permanent Secretary Horace Engdahl was reportedly instructed by the court to “undertake measures” to ensure that the Crown Princess, then still in her 20s, would never be left alone in the company of the then 60-year-old Arnault. 
The story, if true, is another blow to the claims of longstanding Academy members, Engdahl in particular, that they were unaware of Arnault reputation as a serial sexual harasser.
“We can’t comment on that particular information,” Margareta Thorgren, press officer at the Swedish Royal Court told the newspaper, although she said the court supported the #metoo movement against sexual harassment. 
“The information surrounding Jean-Claude Arnault which the media has reported since the autumn is terrifying,” she added. 
Svenska Dagbladet has translated their scoop into English German, and French
In November, the Dagens Nyheter newspaper reported accusations from 18 different women that Arnault had sexually harassed or assaulted them, either at Forum, the cultural centre he helped run, or at apartments owned by the Swedish Academy in Stockholm and Paris. 
Arnault is married to Katarina Frostenson, a poet and Academy member, and is reportedly a close friend of Engdahl's. 
The photographer has denied all the accusations of harassment and his lawyer on Saturday told Expressen and Swedish broadcaster SVT that the new accusation was “false and erroneous”, and had been “released to slander and damage him”. 
“The claimed transgressions never took place,” Arnault said, according to his lawyer. “This is idiotic”. 
The accusations have thrown the Academy into turmoil, with no fewer than six Academy members stepping down as a result, four in protest at the way they have been handled.
Katarina Frostenson and former Permanent Secretary Sara Danius said they would both leave their seats on April 12, after a tense meeting at which Frostenson reportedly said she would not resign unless Danius did too.  
Only ten of the Academy’s 18 members are still active, and the institution is expected to decide next Thursday if it will award the Nobel Prize this year, or postpone it to next year.