Reinfeldt and Löfven lock horns in second debate

Fredrik Reinfeldt and Social Democrat leader Stefan Löfven didn't hold back in their second face-to-face debate on Sunday night, tackling unemployment, taxes, and schooling in what some labelled the most heated debate in years.

Reinfeldt and Löfven lock horns in second debate

Jobs, taxes, and schools were the main themes of Sunday night’s debate, broadcast live on Sveriges Television (SVT). The first half of the debate held the majority of the action, in what the Dagens Nyheter newspaper called “the most heated debate in several years”.

Prime Minister Reinfeldt opened the debate by referring to his government’s plans for a fifth round of income-tax reductions, stating that “if people get to keep more of their salary, then the will and the drive to work will be higher”.

Löfven, who placed unemployment levels highest up his agenda, was unimpressed.

“I hate unemployment,” he said. “I will ensure that every council of state and every authority head gets asked about how they can contribute (to creating more jobs,” he responded.

Reinfeldt, whose four-party centre-right coalition is hoping for a third election victory in September 2014, responded that unemployment isn’t his biggest concern.

“I learned to hate something even worse, that is being an outsider,” he said, adding that such people are often neglected.

Löfven didn’t let the unemployment issue drop, however.

“We have a higher unemployment level than when you took office. You can’t escape that,” he replied.

Next on the agenda was taxes, with Löfven explaining that his party believed it was “fair” to lower taxes for pensioners, stating that “our simple argument is that pension is deferred pay”

Reinfeldt countered by calling Löfven’s tax policies a mess.

“Stefan Löfven is against all tax cuts until they are applied. But you’ll never lower taxes for ordinary people,” he said.

Löfven countered by accusing the PM of lowering taxes with “borrowed money” – a reference to the government’s recently unveiled autumn budget, which caused raised eyebrows also in the country’s conservative press.

Another hot topic was schooling. Education Minister Jan Björklund, taking part in the debate as the leader of The Liberals (Folkpartiet), claimed that school results had continually dropped for 20 years because of the mess from the last Social Democrat government’s actions still being cleaned up.

Löfven retorted that perhaps the statistics had something to do with the fact that Björklund had been the longest sitting education minister in Sweden since primary education (grundskola) was introduced in 1962.

At the close, the prime minister and the leader of the opposition were pleased with their respective efforts in the debate.

“This was a truly good debate, it was the beginning of a long election year where we are going to show that we are focusing on growth, which will get the economy to grow,” Reinfeldt told reporters after.

Swedes will go to the polls on September 14th, 2014.

TT/The Local/og

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Politics in Sweden: Sexual abuse allegations, ‘big drama’ and Vikings

Here's the roundup of the week in Swedish politics, in the latest edition of The Local's Politics in Sweden column.

Politics in Sweden: Sexual abuse allegations, 'big drama' and Vikings

The perhaps biggest story in Swedish politics this week is European Parliament member Sara Skyttedal’s accusation that a party colleague sexually abused her nine years ago.

Skyttedal, for those who don’t know, is a high-profile and famously outspoken member of the right-wing Christian Democrat party and the former leader of its youth wing.

She recently reported party colleague Johan Ingerö to the police, a report which was dropped because the statute of limitations had expired on the alleged 2014 incident.

Ingerö is also a high-profile member of the party, a former head of press and policy analyst who was appointed party secretary (the person who is responsible for the day-to-day political work, second in rank only to the party leader) after the 2022 election.

He denies Skyttedal’s allegations. She claims she was woken up in a hotel room in Stockholm by his hand on her thigh, which she tried to remove several times. It was only when she shouted and physically pushed him off that he left her alone, she says.

Ingerö quit his post shortly after the story emerged, but party leader Ebba Busch told media that the reason for his departure was not the sexual abuse allegations.

Instead, she said the party needed someone with “different strengths” as party secretary, as the party makes the transition from a campaigning opposition party to a member of the government.

A separate recent conflict with Ingerö is what prompted Skyttedal to file the police report (according to Ingerö, she did so as revenge; according to Skyttedal, she did so because his aggression when discussing the issue reawakened memories and made her want to stand up for herself).

That conflict was sparked when Skyttedal in an interview with the ETC newspaper revealed that she had smoked cannabis during her time as an MEP to combat depression, in a country where such use is legal (which it isn’t in Sweden).

She then did a long interview with public broadcaster SVT, in which she said that she believed Sweden should decriminalise cannabis – a position that runs directly counter to the official position of the Christian Democrats, which resulted in party leader Busch saying Skyttedal would not be able to represent the party if she kept using cannabis.

A side effect is that cannabis is now top of the agenda in Swedish politics.

Most political parties are vehemently against changing Sweden’s “zero tolerance” approach to legalising cannabis, despite even the Public Health Agency calling for at least an inquiry into the ban. Here’s an article from The Local’s archive which explains the debate – and how likely it is that Sweden will ever legalise cannabis.

Is Sweden heading for another government crisis?

The words “government crisis” became almost synonymous with former Prime Minister Stefan Löfven’s fragile-yet-relatively-long-lasting rule, which created and saw a series of coalition agreements fall while his minority government fended off more no-confidence votes than anyone else in Swedish history.

The Sweden Democrats’ finance spokesperson Oscar Sjöstedt last week hinted that current Prime Minister Ulf Kristersson could face a similar fate if the government and the far-right party do not agree on by how much to lower the so-called “reduction obligation”.

The reduction obligation mandates fuel suppliers to reduce greenhouse gas emissions from their fuels. The current reduction obligation means that diesel emissions must be reduced by 30.5 percent and petrol by 7.8 percent. The Sweden Democrats want to cut that to zero.

Sjöstedt vowed that failure to agree would spark “big drama, I can tell you that”.

Why Vikings have sparked political turbulence in a small Swedish town

Speaking of government crises.

The local coalition in Hässleholm in southern Sweden is falling apart, after the council’s Sweden Democrat mayor got embroiled in a conflict involving an elderly care home, the alleged hiring of something close to hitmen and a Viking village.

A Viking association run by local businessman Oddvar Lönnerkrantz is accusing mayor Hanna Nilsson of trying to hire him as muscle to put pressure on a resident who was attempting to block the council’s purchase of a building for an elderly care home.

Lönnercrantz told the news site Frilagt that he understood it as Nilsson suggesting that they threaten or assault the man to get him to drop his appeal against the purchase.

Nilsson on the other hand denies those allegations and instead claims Lönnerkrantz has been trying to blackmail her.

The Moderates and the Christian Democrats have now pulled out of Hässleholm’s coalition government with the Sweden Democrats, calling on Nilsson to resign.

Politics in Sweden is a weekly column by Editor Emma Löfgren looking at the big talking points and issues in Swedish politics. Members of The Local Sweden can sign up to receive an email alert when the column is published. Just click on this “newsletters” option or visit the menu bar.