Alf Svensson’s ethical undertaking

At 70 years old, there’s no sign of Alf Svensson slowing down.

Alf Svensson's ethical undertaking

Having been a member of the Christian Democrat Party (Kristdemokraterna) since its conception in 1964, the politician and archetypal family man says he’s ready for the next step in his career: running for a seat in the EU Parliament.

“I can’t emphasize enough how great the EU idea is,” says Svensson. “Almost everything important is decided in the EU Parliament. About 60 to 70 per cent of decisions made in Sweden have some connections with the decisions taken by the EU.”

Svensson says his interest in politics first began when he was a university student in the early 1960s, and he joined the Christian Democrat Party in 1964. He was leader of the party from 1973 to 2004, in addition to being a government minister for development aid and human rights and deputy foreign minister from 1991 to 1994.

His career has earned him a sizeable reputation, which he says he hopes to use to help achieve his platforms if elected to the EU Parliament.

“I’ve had a good network with European politicians,” Svensson says. “Everyone now speaks of environmental problems and economic crisis. But for me the central point is to continue emphasizing that peace for Europe is an essential issue.”

Svensson says without peace and respect for human rights as a foundation of society then “there’s no point in discussing any other issues.” He says if elected, in addition to improving ethics, he hopes to help all Balkan countries join the EU. Plus, he says he supports an idea he recently read about – the potential creation of a museum of EU history.

“For me, it’s difficult to understand why people don’t take the possibility to vote,” Svensson says. “It’s not too hard to vote. I am disappointed that it’s so difficult to engage people for the EU Parliament election.”

Svensson lives with his family in Gränna, 300 km south of Stockholm, but says he is up for the task of commuting weekly to Brussels.

“I’m campaigning to work as hard as I can, and I really look forward to the election,” Svensson says.

“Many Swedes understand that I emphasize more than, I dare to say, any other politicians the necessity of ethical values. We must have a society where something is right and something is wrong. We must speak about cultural values we got from Christian ethics.”

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Sweden’s political pirates signal internet’s election power

If tech-savvy campaigning helped power Barack Obama to the White House, the election of Sweden's Pirate Party in Europe signals that Internet and related privacy issues are political drivers for young voters.

Sweden's political pirates signal internet's election power

The party, which wants an internet filesharing free-for-all while beefing up internet privacy, won 7.1 percent of Sunday’s votes, taking one of Sweden’s 18 seats in the EU Parliament.

“It’s fabulous political recognition,” 37-year-old founder Rick Falkvinge, an information technology entrepreneur, told AFP. “And it hasn’t come from the ‘establishment,’ the mainstream voters. It has come from the ground, the citizens, and it feels great.”

Founded in January 2006, the Pirate Party has attracted largely young, tech-literate males angered by controversial laws adopted in the country that criminalised filesharing and authorised monitoring of emails.

Its membership trebled within a week after a Stockholm court in April sentenced four Swedes to a year in jail for running one of the world’s biggest filesharing sites, The Pirate Bay.

With 23.6 percent of votes among under 30s, and 70 percent of them male, according to pollsters, the party has leapt from nowhere to the top of the table among a generation broadly characterised by political apathy.

“The old politicians don’t understand…,” added Falkvinge. “They see these issues as an isolated problem — they function far from the keyboard, and are not (digitally) connected.”

He claimed that state surveillance rights “threaten a way of life for a generation who have gone to the ballot boxes to defend” the technological freedoms they have grown up with.

Seen at its formation as a joke, the Pirate Party largely bodyswerved traditional issues dividing left and right, a political scientist at Gothenburg University, Ulf Bjereld, told AFP.

“They are seen as a protest party because they refused to be drawn on great areas of debate such as equal opportunities, taxation or pollution,” Bjereld said.

“They have concentrated on themes close to their heart and left the other parties to slug it out on other questions.”

Many members say they joined because they fear a “Big Brother” society.

The party also wants to do away with the lucrative system that grants major drug companies’ exclusive patents.

However, Bjereld was at pains to stress these developed world ‘pirates’ should not be classed among extremists, arguing such voters represent a new class of liberal.

He predicted that their elected member, Christian Engström, will sit in the parliament’s dual Brussels and Strasbourg chambers alongside mainstream liberals and greens.

It has picked up protest votes from left and right, but mainly mobilised those who normally bypass the ballot box, said the head of Sifo polling institute, Toivo Sjoren.

“If this party hadn’t been on the ballot paper, I simply wouldn’t have voted,” said Daniel Wijk, a 29-year-old website developer.

“These questions of protection of privacy and Internet freedom are what motivate me,” he added, articulating his anger at “policing” via modern communications technologies.

“We are not all criminals,” he said.

Looking to Sweden’s next general election in September 2010, political analyst Mats Knutson called the result a “formidable cold shower” for Prime Minister Fredrik Reinfeldt.

“The Pirate Party has taken advantage of a new cleavage in Swedish politics, about civil liberties, about who should have the right to decide over knowledge,” Bjereld told AFP on Sunday.

The Pirate Party, which has sister parties in 20 countries, also fielded candidates in Poland and Germany.

More than half of US adults used the internet to engage in the race for the White House, according to a study released in April.

Obama’s use of the medium to raise money and volunteers was a major factor behind his November 4th victory, numerous political analysts have said.