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Juholt remark sparks political squabble

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07:35 CET+01:00
Social Democrat leader Håkan Juholt once again landed himself in hot water after saying that the government had “pushed through” defence policies with the help of the Sweden Democrats.

“The citizens are expecting that the parties work together on defence and security policy. The government has closed that door with the help of the Sweden Democrats,” said Juholt.

The message that Juholt wanted to get through, when speaking at the Folk och Försvar national defence conference in Sälen, in northern Sweden, was that the debate on security policy must be widened to include social issues and unemployment, which can lead to a rise in extremism and racism in Europe.

“We have to make every effort to be prescient of what conflicts could be born from,” Juholt said in his speech.

He also attacked the government saying that they had pushed through a new defence policy without broad political support, and that the new defence was under-financed.

Minister for defence Sten Tolgfors later repudiated Juholt's claims in his blog, pointing out that the Sweden Democrats weren't even in the Riksdag when the defence reform was voted through.

He was joined by minister for education and leader for the Liberals, Jan Björklund, who called Juholt's statement “nonsense”.

This didn't go down too well with the Social Democrat leader.

“Of course I know that the Sweden Democrats weren't in the Riksdag during the government's last term of office. It's bad form of the defence minister to suggest anything else," Juholt later told news agency TT.

“I was consciously being drastic to illustrate the problems with a minority government.”

Juholt said that what he had meant was that the government had closed the door on a broad political consensus and now only had the Sweden Democrats to lean on.

“If I chose a word that wasn't appropriate then I apologize,” he said.

However, the Social Democrat leader reiterated that he is not the only one to argue that the new defence is under-financed and is something that the minority government must solve.

The latest headlines come after another record low for the party in the polls.

According to a survey carried out by research company United Minds for daily Aftonbladet, support for the Social Democrats fell with another 2.1 percentage points to 23,6 – a historic low for the party.

According to Aftonbladet, there is a risk that disgruntled voters are abandoning the beleaguered Social Democrats for the Left Party, especially after new leader Jonas Sjöstedt's appointment.

However, Juholt was nevertheless optimistic when he spoke to the press after the defence conference.

The reason for his optimism, he claimed, was that voter figures had started turning upward last summer before internal squabbles made headlines, due to his presenting Sweden with the Social Democrat way.

He intends to continue the same way.

“I have a plan for this. There are many in Sweden who are longing for the Social Democrats to demonstrate an alternative, show how we can create jobs,” he said.

Monday also saw the announcement of a party reshuffle, making Urban Ahlin both group secretary in the Riksdag and deputy party secretary, according to Sveriges Television (SVT).

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