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Danes call for election observers in Sweden

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10:36 CEST+02:00
Representatives of the governing parties in Denmark have argued that freedom of speech is under threat in Sweden and have called for the instalment of election observers to ensure that democracy is upheld.

The foreign policy spokesmen of the government coalition partners the Liberal Party (Venstre) and the Conservative People's Party (Det Konservative Folkeparti - K) have argued that the Council of Europe should send election observers to Sweden, according to a report in the Danish Jyllands-Posten daily on Tuesday.

"I think that it would be appropriate to send observers to the Swedish elections. I want to hold a discussion the Council of Europe's member states, over whether we should put Sweden under some form of monitoring, to secure democracy in the future," Venstre's Michael Aastrup Jensen told the newspaper.

Jensen is joined by Naser Khader of Det Konservative in criticising the state of freedom of expression in Sweden following the decision by national television channel TV4 and several radio channels not to broadcast an election campaign advert by the nationalist Sweden Democrats.

"Sweden is a developing country when it comes to freedom of expression," Khader said. "Someone should tell the Swedes, that it is a question of censorship. This doesn't belong in a Scandinavian country in 2010."

Vivian Nilsson of the Swedish Election Authority told The Local on Tuesday that the Organisation for Security and Co-operation in Europe (OSCE) has already visited Sweden and adjudged that election observers are not needed.

"But elections are open public occasions in Sweden, so anyone can come and observe if they want to," she said. "That is not something over which we decide."

Pia Kjærsgaard, the leader of the Danish People's Party (Danske Folkeparti, DPP), an anti-immigration conservative party that lends its support to the government in parliament, has also criticised Sweden.

"The situation in Sweden is more grotesque than in eastern Europe," she said to the newspaper.

However, according to the newspaper, Danish Foreign Minister Lene Espersen (K) has responded that it is not her place to get involved in the Swedish national elections.

Representatives for the opposition Danish Social Liberal Party (De Radikale Venstre) rejected Jensen's comments arguing that the party's proposal is "completely out of proportion."

"Sweden is a fully functioning Nordic democracy," Niels Helveg Petersen, De Radikale's foreign policy spokesperson, told the newspaper.

Swedish TV channel TV4 announced last Friday that it had refused to broadcast a campaign advert by the far-right Sweden Democrats because it considered it to be an incitement to racial hatred.

The half-minute advert shows a race in which an elderly woman with a walker is chased by a group of burqa-clad women pushing prams with a slogan promising to safeguard pension funding at the expense of immigration.

National radio stations SBS Radio, Mix Megapol and Rockklassiker later also decided not to broadcast a version of the advert, arguing that it was in breach of the Swedish law on freedom of expression that prohibits messages that contain hate speech grounded on race and religion.

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