“We have taken the logical decision to decline participation,” Social Democrat spokesperson Nina Wadensjö told the TT news agency in reference to a televised party leader debate on Sveriges Television (SVT) scheduled for Sunday evening.
“We do not want to stand with the Sweden Democrats, it is unthinkable for us.”
The Left Party spokesperson Ted Bergdahl concurred.
“The placement that SVT wants gives the image of a united opposition, which we aren’t,” he told SVT, arguing that the placement should be decided by lottery.
On their website, the Social Democrats explained that they couldn’t accept how the show was arranged, since the placement of the party leaders implied that the Social Democrats formed a “common opposition” with the Sweden Democrats.
The Social Democrats’ arguments, however, didn’t sit will with producers at SVT.
“We see these parties’ actions in this case as difficult to justify, and unacceptable in principle,” SVT Programme Director, Jan Axelsson said in a statement.
“What would the parties have said it it had been the Sweden Democrats or the Alliance which had demanded changes in the studio?”
Before declining, the two parties had demanded a change in the arrangements for the show, but without success.
Axelsson explained that the party leaders would be standing in a half-moon formation, with their own separate desks, and not behind a long desk where one might seem that all the opposition parties were cooperating.
“No viewer could misinterpret that situation.”
The Sweden Democrats’ Åkesson found humour in the actions of the Left Party and the Social Democrats.
“I laughed at first. I was really surprised,” he told SVT, adding that “their sandbox behaviour has reached new dimensions.”
SVT head Eva Hamilton defended the broadcaster’s stance.
“It is unthinkable for us to allow political parties to pose ultimatums and dictate arrangements in our shows,” she said in a statement.
Invitations for the debate were sent out last spring and all the parties accepted without comment. It was only after SVT presented how the leaders would be arranged in the studio that the parties started protesting.