Low turn out fears in Swedish election re-run

As a county council election re-run beckons in western Sweden, there are fears that a record low proportion of the electorate will bother to cast their votes.

Low turn out fears in Swedish election re-run

“No one seems to have considered the consequences,” said political scientist Sören Holmberg, amid fears that the low participation could impact the result.

Sweden’s Election Review Board (Valprövningsnämnden) announced in February that the Västra Götaland county council election would need to be re-run after irregularities in the September 2010 vote.

On the four prior occasions that new elections have been called since the board was founded in 1975, voter turnout has not dipped below 70 percent. There are fears however that the turnout could fall to around 50 percent.

Only the elections to the European Parliament post such low figures in Sweden, with participation typically in the region of 40 percent.

The election in Västra Götaland is not a mere re-run but a completely new election, underlined Sören Holmberg.

“There are new voters, new party leaders, new candidates and new parties. It is very unusual,” he said.

Holmberg argues that the consequences were not considered when the election law was amended in the 1990s, adding that it is particularly serious that the election is taking place a full eight months after the main general election.

“It is eight months later. Half of a new age group can take part, people who have moved can not take part and the costs will be unreasonable for society,” he said.

The election is set to cost tax-payers around 100 million kronor ($15.8 million).

The Election Board ruled that in Västra Götaland, 104 votes were approved erroneously and that 16 votes for the Centre Party were not counted.

“The election law must be changed so that the board has the power to assign a seat without a new election,” Holmberg said.

The Feminist Initiative (Feministiskt Initiativ – Fi), one of the smaller parties competing for seats on the council, has meanwhile reported the county administrative board to the Parliamentary Ombusdman (Justitieombudsman – JO) for its handling of the election.

The party claims that when its candidates were registered with the board the information was not forwarded to the Election Authority.

The election has courted further controversy recently after it was found that a number of false election posters had appeared in central Gothenburg in an apparent attempt to sabotage the Social Democrat campaign.

The posters are copies of the Social Democrat official posters but contain small print which reads: “This is not an advertisement from the the Social Democrats. This is pure information”.

The “pure information” on the posters included claims that the party wants to limit restaurant opening hours.

The county council election has gained greater prominence that it might otherwise following the change of leadership in the Social Democrats. The party is one of those investing heavily in its election campaign, the first with Håkan Juholt at the helm.

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