Cheryl Jones Fur moved to Sweden from Oklahoma in the United States over 20 years ago. She joined the Green Party and decided to run for office in Sweden because she sees politics as everybody’s business and not just the reserve of the political classes.
“I wasn’t involved in politics in the United States, but I became fascinated with the Swedish system. Politics is something that everybody is responsible for,” Jones Fur told The Local on Wednesday.
The 50-year-old American-Swede, also appreciated that she was able to choose from a spectrum of parties in Sweden, finding her ideological home with the Green Party.
“I like the fact that in Sweden there is a diversity of parties, where I come from there are only really two, and I have always been interested in environmental issues.”
Jones Fur told The Local that, in comparison with the United States, she found Swedish politics more accessible and would welcome more new Swedes taking up the challenge.
“In Sweden there is a lower threshold to getting involved. All of the parties, except perhaps the Sweden Democrats, have a vision for how they want to improve Sweden, I would encourage all to find their own vision.”
Jones Fur, who is a trained zoologist and self-employed translator, admitted to finding it hard to secure a job when she first arrived in Sweden, but that in many ways her experience differs from other new Swedes.
“In some ways (I see myself as representative for new Swedes), but with my background being from the United States, I have had it a lot easier than some groups and it is very hard to compare my situation with political refugees, for example.”
She identified jobs and learning the language as the keys to finding your feet in Sweden and sought initiatives to break down the barriers to the workplace.
“We have to ensure that new arrivals don’t have to wait to get into the jobs market – if they start working, they meet Swedes and they learn the language.”
Jones Fur does not consider emergence of the anti-immigrant Sweden Democrat party as an indication of the failure of mainstream politics, but would like to see the party engaged in a more open debate.
“We need to discuss their policies and break them down on their merits, or rather lack of them,” she said, expressing faith in the resilience of Sweden’s democratic discourse and political system.
“I think it is appalling that they (the Sweden Democrats) are being attacked when they conduct their meetings,” she added.
Jones Fur, who tops the Riksdag list of candidates for the Green Party in Kronoberg county, feels that the environment has taken something of a back seat in the political debate recently and identified the need to “get Sweden back online for the climate issue”, as a core issue in the upcoming election.
“To actually do something and not just use pretty words, we need action on suggestions to tackle the problems that we face,” she said adding, “we need to development incentives to make it cheaper and easier to continue living and to stop living unsustainably.”
Cheryl Jones Fur agreed that the 2010 general election stands to be something of an historic election for Sweden, with the prospect of a second term centre-right government for the first time.
“It could possibly be a major change if this government remains in power and continues on its path of more privatisation and individal responsibility. This excludes a lot of people who can’t handle the responsibility and increases the differences in society.”
While recent opinion polls indicate that the Sweden Democrats could gain seats in parliament, and several politicians warn of political instability as a result, Jones Fur sees little scope for a cooperation between the Green Party and an Alliance government.
“At previous elections we have looked into the possibility of forming a government with the centre parties, but that hasn’t worked. If you compare our manifesto with the Moderates, we have only VAT in common – I just don’t think that they have much to offer us.”