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Social Democrats still ‘deeply divided’: expert

The turbulence within the Social Democrats, which climaxed at the weekend with the resignation of party head Håkan Juholt, is just the latest symptom of a party suffering from deep internal division, according to political scientist Nicholas Aylott at the Södertörn University in Stockholm.

Social Democrats still 'deeply divided': expert

“The Social Democrats are deeply split over a number of issues and I would argue that these differences have been aggravated by the process by which the party has chosen its previous leaders,” Aylott told The Local.

This selection process is among the things that the executive committee has spent Monday debating behind closed doors.

Unlike many other political parties, the Social Democrats delegate the task of selecting a candidate to a selection committee (valberedning), which, after having conferred behind closed doors, often select only one candidate, which they present to the party members.

According to Aylott, this process is at the root of the party’s problems.

”In the most recent leader election, this system produced a candidate who was absolutely painfully unsuitable for the job. In the end everyone suffered because of this,” Aylott said.

Click here for a photo gallery of what Stockholm residents are saying about Håkan Juholt’s resignation

When scandal upon scandal followed, it would have been much better for the party had Juholt resigned last autumn, according to Aylott.

The fact that he stayed on for as long as he did just meant that the agony was extended.

The question, according to Aylott, is whether the party will manage to turn this system around, to formulate a new and more open way of choosing their leader, closer to that of some of the other Swedish political parties.

This, he means is essential for the party to work out what it is they want, where they stand on a number of issues, and then go from there to elect the right candidate for the job.

The Swedish media is currently rife with speculation as to whom might be in the cards as the party’s next leader, while party spokespeople adamantly maintain that they are currently discussing the election process, rather than prospective candidates.

Many of those whose names are bandied about in the press have already said that they are not interested in the post as party leader.

But according to Aylott there is a tradition among the Social Democratic party to say no but accept anyway if ”the party calls”.

This doesn’t necessarily mean that many are jumping at the idea, however.

”It is a pretty unattractive position at the moment with the party struggling in the polls, it would be a herculean task for anybody,” Aylott said.

According to Aylott, a worst case scenario for the party would be if the executive committee are not able to resolve the power struggles within the party before initiating the selection process.

”If they just appoint someone to act as party leader I would suspect more trouble, because that person would not have the mandate to act on anything while the party is still undecided on where its going,” he said.

However, if the party manages to formulate their direction by holding an open selection process where candidates are able to make clear their stance and get elected on the back of this, the party may well find itself on track again.

”That person would then have a clear mandate to take the party where it wants to go,” Aylott told The Local.

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NATO

PM: Social Democrats could decide on Nato on May 15th

Sweden's Prime Minister has said that her party has brought forward the date for a decision on Nato membership by ten days, meaning a decision could be in place before a state visit by Finland's president in mid-May.

PM: Social Democrats could decide on Nato on May 15th

The decision had previously been tabled for a meeting of the party board on May 24th, but could now be taken at an extra meeting of the Social Democrats ruling committee on May 15th, Magdalena Andersson said at a press conference on Thursday. 

“We will of course discuss the issue and then we can see if we feel ready to take a decision or not,” she said at a Ukraine donors’ conference in Warsaw. 

She said that the security guarantees Sweden has received from the US and Germany for the period between a possible application and full Nato membership were significant. 

“It means a lot if Sweden chooses to send in an application, that we will be safer during the period up until we become members than we otherwise would be,” she said. 

“The party committee can take a decision then,” Party secretary Tobias Baudin he told Sweden’s TT newswire of the May 15th meeting. 

The meeting will come just two days after the Swedish government’s ‘security policy analysis group’, which includes representatives from all political parties, is due to submit its own reassessment of Sweden’s security situation. 

“It depends on what the security policy dialogue shows,” Baudin says of the decision. “Right now meetings in party districts are going at full pace.” 

The May 15th meeting will take place on the Sunday before the week when Finland’s Iltalehti and Sweden’s Expressen newspaper last month reported Finland and Sweden had already decided to jointly announce a decision to join Nato.

Finland’s president, Sauli Niinistö, is due to visit Stockholm on 17th May and 18 May on a state visit, where he will be hosted by King Karl XVI Gustaf.  

The meeting of the Social Democrats’ ruling committee will come shortly after the party holds three digital members’ meetings on security policy, on May 9th, May 10th and May 12th (although these may also be brought forward). 

There is still resistance in the party’s rank and file, with at least three of the party’s powerful leagues still openly opposed to joining: 

  • The Social Democratic Women in Sweden voted last week to continue its opposition to Nato membership.
  • The Swedish Social Democratic Youth League has said it would prefer Sweden to bolster its security through the EU.
  • The Religious Social Democrats of Sweden has said that it believes the decision should not be rushed through at a time of conflict.  
  • The Social Democrat Students’ League has said that it wants to wait until it has seen the security police analysis before taking a decision. 

None of these leagues can block membership, however. It is the Social Democrats’ ruling party committee which is empowered to take the decision. 

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