As Sweden parliamentarians assembled on Friday to discuss last week’s unrest in Stockholm, Sweden Democrat leader Jimmie Åkesson condemned the vandalism and attacks on police and firemen. That view did not put him apart from the mainstream of Swedish politics, but the subsequent proposal – also stating that the parents be “offered” classes in parenting that would be “obligatory” – was set to raise eyebrows.
Left Party leader Jonas Sjösted retorted in parliament that the Sweden Democrats lay the blame on immigrants, which Åkesson denied.
“We are not placing the blame on the immigrants, we’re placing the blame on the other political parties. It is the people in this very chamber that have full responsibility and who have created the politics that caused what happened,” Åkesson said. His lament about what he termed a “gigantic political failure” received little support, however, from the other parties.
“Åkesson wants to fight immigrants, I want to fight the class divisions,” Sjöstedt said, adding that Åkesson was pitiful for not talking about the far-right groups hunting down immigrants in the wake of the first nights of unrest. He further accused the Sweden Democrat leader of wanting to cement divisions in society.
Sjösted got a modicum of support from the main opposition party the Social Democrats when MP Morgan Johansson adressed the floor.
“This is not a question about immigration, it is a class question,” said the shadow justice minister, whose party wanted more Swedes with immigrant backgrounds in the police force as well as a better focus on resources in ailing schools. The Social Democrats proposed that Sweden look at ways of supporting the 50 worst performing schools in the country to target the problem.
The focus on education was also part of the address by Center Party MP Johan Linander, who said he would like concrete action to be taken.
“Jobs, jobs, jobs for adults. School, school, school for young. It is neither more complicated nor easier than that,” Linander told his fellow parliamentarians, who added that it was “not unexpected” that Åkesson would blame immigration.
The conservative Justice Minister, meanwhile, instead put the blame at the individuals’ door.
“There are no excuses. There may be explanations, but everyone has personal responsibility,” Beatrice Ask told parliament. “Young angry men, it is almost always men, subjecting others to violence and danger. I want to state clearly that it is completely unacceptable.”
“There are frustrated young people. While there are no simple solutions, we can never accept violence,” said Liberal Party (Folkpartiet) MP Gulan Avci.
The Green Party, meanwhile, said politicians needed to zoom out and address the living conditions in some of the affected suburbs. Green MP Mehmet Kaplan pointed out that his party wanted to renovate the Million Programme housing schemes built after the Second World War that were in desperate need of upgrades.
Kaplan underscored that he had lived for 17 years in Husby, the neighbourhood where the unrest was sparked, and said that the struggle to understand the unrest was “personal”. Kaplan said that many young people in Husby felt the adult world did not listen to them, and that they felt let down.
Åkesson’s choice to lift the role of the parents in the unrest did find an echo of sorts among the socially conservative Christian Democrat party, as its MP Caroline Szyber stated that one thing was being missed in the discussion.
“The role of the parent has been overshadowed. We do not forget the fight against social injustice, quite the opposite, but in the work to make sure this does not happen again, parents and other grown ups will play a central role.”