Welcome to Sweden’s power players week

You're going to hear the word Almedalen a lot this week. Whether you love or loathe politics, this is annual gathering of Sweden's power players on the island of Gotland is an event you need to know about.

Welcome to Sweden's power players week
Centre Party leader Annie Lööf, speaking on Sunday. Photo: TT
Let's start with the name. What exactly does Almedalen even mean?
Almedalen translates as 'elm valley' in English. It is the name of the park in Visby on the island of Gotland, where Sweden's party leaders hold their most important speeches of the year during Almedalen Week.
Okay, so what is Almedalen Week then?
Almedalen Week (usually shortened to just Almedalen) crams Sweden's political conference season into just eight days.
It's been going for more than 40 years and started after former Swedish Social Democrat Prime Minister Olof Palme spoke from the back of a lorry in Visby back in 1968. Since then it has mushroomed in size with more than 20,000 people attending each summer, from politicians to lobbyists, journalists and campaigners.
Why should I care if I'm not Swedish?
Almedalen is one of the biggest political gatherings on the planet that most people outside of Sweden have never heard of. But the debates this week will dig into Swedish themes and topics that are already of global interest, from paternity leave to free schools, laws that make buying sex illegal to the nation's defence strategy in the face of rising Russian aggression.
How do I get an invite then?
You don't need one. Most events are free and the idea is that anyone who wants to discuss a current social issue should be able to participate. In practice, good luck getting to Gotland. Hotels, apartments and even camp sites usually get booked up months in advance, while ferries and flights to the island quickly sell out.
So if I'm going to be following Almedalen from my sofa, how do I know when interesting stuff is happening?
That's where The Local comes in. We're relocating our office from Stockholm to Visby for the first time and we'll be reporting on the hottest events and speeches throughout the week. Since most – but not all – speeches and events will be held in Swedish, we'll be the only news site offering live coverage in English, focussing on the most innovative proposals and political ideas to emerge from the gathering.
You'll find information on our home page, in our special Almedalen 2015 section and by following our updates on Twitter.
Each parliamentary party gets one day at their disposal, following a rotating pattern designed to make sure that smaller groups aren't confined to the fringes of the festival. Most parties start their days taking part in early morning radio and television interviews before holding events and seminars, with leaders holding key speeches at 7pm.

All of Sweden's major political leaders will be present at Almedalen. Photo: TT
Here's the timetable for 2015
Sunday June 28th – Centerpartiet (Centre Party)
Monday June 29th – Socialdemokraterna (Social Democrats)
Tuesday June 30th – Kristdemokraterna (Christian Democrats)
Wednesday July 1st – Sverigedemokraterna (Sweden Democrats)
Thursday July 2nd – Miljöpartiet (Green Party)
Friday July 3rd – Moderaterna (Moderate Party)
Saturday July 4th – Vänsterpartiet (Left Party)
Sunday July 5th – Folkpartiet (Liberal Party)
What else is going on this year?
There are around 3000 events on the official programme this year, from speeches by global international guests including writer Naomi Klein, to Vice President of the European Commission Valdis Dombrovskis (who's currently playing a major role in Greece crisis talks) and leading business figures such as Tina Fordham, Chief Global Political Analyst at Citibank. Elsewhere you can party with feminist campaign groups, mingle with Swedish start-ups or even let your hair down at lunchtime disco sessions designed to encourage visitors to take a break and mingle.
We can't wait.


Five of Sweden’s political parties planned to evade party financing laws

Five of the eight political parties in the Swedish parliament discussed evading party financing laws with a businessman secretly working with journalists, a new investigation by broadcaster TV4 has found.

Five of Sweden's political parties planned to evade party financing laws

“There’s every reason to demand moral and political responsibility,” political scientist Jonas Hinnfors said of how Sweden’s society should react to the investigation’s findings. “It’s a threat to democracy.”

The new law on donations to political parties which came into force in 201  dictates that parties must declare all donations received from private individuals or businesses. Donators can remain anonymous, byt only as long as their donation does not exceed 24,150 kronor (€2,281). Larger donations must be declared along with the name of the donor.

The Kalla Fakta team which produced the documentary hired two businessmen to call each parliamentary party and ask how they could donate half a million kronor, while staying anonymous. The conversations were recorded and meetings filmed with a hidden camera.

Three parties – the Centre Party, the Left Party and the Green Party – said that it wasn’t possible for the donor to remain anonymous. 

But the other five parties – the Social Democrats, the Moderates, the Sweden Democrats, the Christian Democrats and the Liberals – suggested different ways of getting around the requirements.

Christian Democrat press secretary Peter Kullgren suggested splitting up donations and donating to individual candidates so that each donation remained under the legal limit.

Another method, proposed by Sweden Democrat head of finance Lena-Karin Lifvenhjelm, consisted of giving the money to another individual who would donate it under their name instead.

Magdalena Agrell, the Social Democrat’s head of finance, discussed finding someone else to act as a front in recorded telephone conversations.

The chairman and communications chief of the Social Democrat’s youth organisation, Diyar Cicek and Youbert Aziz, suggested that the businessman instead create a foundation to donate the money.

The Moderate Party’s ombudsman Patrik Haggren proposed that donations could be sent from different members of the businessman’s family in order to remain anonymous.

Lisa Flinth, who is responsible for leadership support in the Liberal Party, also proposed this method, providing the contact details of a middleman, the consultant Svend Dahl.

Dahl first proposed that his company send an invoice of half a million kronor to the businessman, but later suggested that the money be transferred to him to donate to the Liberals in his name, thereby avoiding having to pay tax.

“It’s important you keep yourself anonymous,” Dahl said in Kalla Fakta‘s recordings of conversations with the undercover businessman.

Dahl is a political scientist and has previously been head of media organisation Liberala Nyhetsbyrån.

Flinth was well aware of the fact that the method undermines the aim of the law, telling the businessman in a telephone conversation that it was very important that nothing could be traced back to the party.

“It could have serious consequences,” she said. “We don’t really have any margins when it comes to credibility.”

“If there was an article about this in the middle of a heated election campaign and we miss the threshold for getting in to parliament, I would never forgive myself,” she said.

Political scientist Jonas Hinnfors, who commented on the conversation for the Kalla Fakta team, said he was shocked after hearing it.

“They know what the point of the new legislation is,” he told Kalla Fakta. “Going against that is political dynamite.”

In a written comment on their website, the Liberals’ vice-party secretary Gustav Georgson stated that the party would not use Dahl’s consulting services again and that it “takes the statements made by Kalla Fakta seriously and will act forcefully to avoid similar situations happening again.”