• Sweden's news in English
 
app_header_v3

Scandal made Tolgfors's position 'untenable'

30 Mar 2012, 16:37

Published: 30 Mar 2012 16:37 GMT+02:00

"No matter how you look at it, this is bad news for the government. You can't really put a good spin on it," Nicholas Aylott, a political scientist at Södertörn University in Stockholm, tells The Local.

"It adds to the sense that the government is facing a mounting set of problems and doesn't have the wherewithal to get a grip on the political agenda."

Tolgfors's resignation was announced during a Thursday press conference during which prime minister Fredrik Reinfledt praised Tolgfors for his efforts in overseeing the transformation of the Swedish military in light of stinging budget cuts which prompted the defence minister's predecessor to quit in protest in 2007.

However, both Reinfeldt and Tolgfors also acknowledged that the still unfolding scandal surrounding a secret plan hatched by officials at Sweden's Defence Research Agency (Totalförsvarets forskningsinstitut, FOI) to help build a weapons plant in Saudi Arabia also played a role in Tolgfors's decision.

According to Tolgfors, the media attention surrounding the scandal, first revealed by Sveriges Radio (SR) in early March "hastened and facilitated" a move he said he'd been considering since the autumn of 2011.

Following the announcement, there was much speculation in the Swedish media regarding whether Tolgfors had really acted on his own accord or had been forced out by Reinfeldt.

"It's difficult to say whether he was sacrificed or decided he just couldn't put up with it anymore since we know so little about the details of the affair," says Aylott.

"Regardless, it's difficult to see how he could survive in the role considering the continued revelations in the press. His position was becoming more and more untenable."

While Tolgfors's departure may provide Reinfeldt with some breathing room politically, Aylott expects the prime minister to have a rough road ahead as he attempts to placate rising frustration among the smaller parties in the governing centre-right Alliance government and get his political agenda back on track.

"[The scandal] illuminates a number of other deep-seeded problems facing the Alliance and adds to a continued loss of momentum," says Aylott

"The fact is, it's a minority government and they find themselves in a tricky situation. They have little in the way of a plan for how to deal with it other than to hang on until the next election and hope for a majority, something that looks increasingly unlikely considering recent events."

Aylott adds that aspects of the secret deal with Saudi Arabia are "eyebrow-raising, to say the least", such as revelations that FOI allegedly borrowed massive amounts of cash from military intelligence agency MUST in order to finance a shell company to manage the dubious venture.

In other ways, however, the behaviour of officials at FOI in apparently looking to skirt the rules in order to pursue a partnership with the Saudis is simply indicative of an agency under pressure and a "sign of weakness" for the Swedish defence industry.

"The Swedish defence industry has been under stress because of drastic reductions in demand for equipment and services from the Swedish military and has had to look for external solutions," he said

"That kind of pressure can bring about 'entrepreneurial' behaviour, not to mention a collective loss of judgment."

Despite the additional hardships facing Reinfeldt as he awaits more potentially damning details which could be revealed by numerous probes now underway into FOI's actions surrounding the Saudi deal, Aylott believes the prime minister can be thankful that the political opposition hasn't been more ruthless in blaming the government for the scandal.

"One reason this hasn't been as explosive politically is that all the parties have had involvement with it at some level," he explains, pointing out that the Memorandum of Understanding (MoU) under which the project was pursued was actually signed in 2005 under the then Social Democrat-led government.

Story continues below…

In addition, new Social Democrat head Stefan Löfven is also sympathetic to the importance of keeping the Swedish defence industry afloat, both in terms of jobs and exports.

"Löfven may therefore be more hesitant to openly criticize the government over the matter and the opposition has perhaps felt constrained from going for the government's throat more directly," says Aylott.

"At least that's one interpretation as to why they've given the government a relatively easy ride on this so far."

David Landes

twitter.com/davelandes

Your comments about this article

09:54 April 1, 2012 by SimonDMontfort
Isn't that Julian Assange in the photo...?
20:26 April 5, 2012 by GLO
Help me understand why this should be a Big Deal... I would believe this is good for Sweden mfging????? Good Job getting the deal. Perhaps, Sweden can use the mfg base to make Dala Horses. Good for future jobs!!!! Sweden can keep getting high education goals, no jobs for sitting at caffe shops on internet......Sweden the Welfare State!!!!
10:50 April 6, 2012 by AHA
Why put all the blame on the Alliance. It´s the Soc. Dem. government that signed the contract. Not even tha leftists did anything about it then and don´t tell me no body knew.
Today's headlines
Sweden loses fastest internet crown
Good luck untangling those. Photo: Magnus Hjalmarson Neideman /SvD /TT

Worse still, the new European king is Norway.

Where to see the Northern Lights in Sweden tonight
The Northern Lights pictured in Sweden on Wednesday night. Photo: Norrsken Sverige

An unusually high level of solar activity means the spectacle could be visible from rare spots in the country.

The Local List
These are the brands Swedes love the most
What brands do the Swedes love the most? Photo: Per Groth/Magnus Hjalmarson Neideman/SvD/Pontus Lundahl/TT

Revealed: Swedes' top-20 favourite brands.

Spotify launches new karaoke style streaming in Japan
Can karaoke help Spotify to crack Japan? Photo: DocChewbacca/Flickr creative commons

The Swedish streaming giant has taken inspiration from Japan's love of karaoke with its launch in the country.

US rappers' gig ends in 'bloodbath' in Stockholm
US rapper Ghostface Killah. Photo: Scott Roth/Invision/AP

A man ran onto the stage during a concert by US rappers Ghostface Killah and Killah Priest in Stockholm.

Border checks
Could Sweden's border controls soon be lifted?
The border control at the Swedish side of the Öresund Bridge to Denmark. Photo: Emil Langvad/TT

The EU-approved six-month extension of controls in the south of the country will soon come to an end.

'Homemade bomb' on bus in Sweden was bike helmet
File photo of a Swedish police officer. Photo: Maja Suslin/TT

A bicycle helmet sparked a bomb scare on a bus in Uppsala.

What's on in Sweden
Four don't-miss festivals in Sweden this week
Stockholm Beer and Whisky Festival. Photo: Stockholm Öl & Vin AB

Arab cinema, Gay Pride, out-of-the-box art, whisky and craft beer – what more could a person in Sweden possibly need?

Sweden advised to bring conscription back in 2018
Bringing back the draft could help a stretched military, a government inquiry says. Photo: Fredrik Sandberg/TT

Young men and women could be made to fill in questionnaires for recruitment to the Armed Forces as early as next year, according to a new proposal.

Nationalists suspend aide after Russia propaganda claim
The suspended aide is a political secretary to SD member of parliament Kent Ekeroth. Photo: Claudio Bresciani/TT

His suspension comes only days after another of the party's political secretaries resigned amid controversy over a property deal in Russia.

Sponsored Article
Expat finances in Sweden: the Common Reporting Standard
Gallery
People-watching: September 28th
Sponsored Article
Let's Talk: a personal Swedish language tutor in your pocket
National
Aliens' sex lives? Why Swedes want Nasa to send a condom into space
Analysis & Opinion
'If Sweden really wants startups, drop the red tape on migration'
Blog updates

27 September

Cutting your nose …. (The Diplomatic Dispatch) »

"Last week, Jeremy Browne, the Special Representative for the City of London, visited Sweden. Jeremy was…" READ »

 

7 September

Svensk or svenska? (The Swedish Teacher) »

"Hejsan! My inbox is full of questions :-). Here’s one about when to use “svensk” and…" READ »

 
 
 
Sponsored Article
‘I view the world in a different way now’
Gallery
Property of the week: Gotland
Sponsored Article
Retiring abroad: ensuring your health is covered
National
Trump an 'embarrassment' Springsteen tells Sweden
Gallery
People-watching: September 23rd-25th
Politics
Russian Sweden Democrat aide resigns over suspect deal
Sponsored Article
'Creating a sense of home': Collective living in Stockholm
National
Muslim teacher leaves job after not shaking male colleague's hand
Sponsored Article
Life in Jordan: 'Undiscovered treasure'
Travel
Why we adore autumn in Sweden
Gallery
People-watching: September 21st
Sponsored Article
Gran Canaria: 'So much more than beaches'
National
Stockholmers hunt killer badger after attack on neighbourhood hipster cat
Sponsored Article
Why Jordan is the ‘Different’ East
The Local Voices
Why this Russian developer is committed to helping refugees - with tech
National
Six key points in Sweden's budget plan
Sponsored Article
How to vote absentee from abroad in the US elections
The Local Voices
How a Swedish name finally made recruiters notice this Iranian's CV
Sponsored Article
Why Jordan is the ‘Different’ East
Gallery
Property of the week: Luleå
Sponsored Article
Retiring abroad: ensuring your health is covered
Gallery
People-watching: September 16th-18th
Sponsored Article
'There was no future for me in Turkey'
Culture
Why Swedish TV has given these kids' trucks a sex swap
Sponsored Article
7 reasons you should join Sweden’s ’a-kassa’
National
TIMELINE: Everything you need to know about the Julian Assange case
Sponsored Article
‘Extremism can't be defeated on the battlefield alone’
Gallery
People-watching: September 14th
Politics
Why Sweden is putting troops on holiday dream island Gotland
The Local Voices
'What I mean when I say: I came here to blow myself up'
Society
VIDEO: Are Swedes that unfriendly?
Features
INTERVIEW: How Arthur the jungle dog opened hearts and minds
Gallery
Property of the week: Smögen, Västra Götaland
Society
Sweden's ancient forest tongue Elfdalian fights for survival
The Local Voices
'Whenever I apply for jobs I’m treated like an unwanted stranger'
The Local Voices
Is Swedish bosses' ignorance keeping refugees out of jobs?
2,960
jobs available