Sweden’s Greens tumble towards open trapdoor

Sweden’s Greens tumble towards open trapdoor
Åsa Romson has had a tough few weeks. Photo: Maja Muslin/TT
A crisis in confidence in Sweden’s Greens has put the junior coalition partner in freefall, a new poll shows.

After weeks of scandals and doubts about the leadership, a new poll suggests the Green Party would barely scrape into parliament if elections were held today. 

Just two years after the party roared into the European Parliament with 15 percent of the national vote, the latest Sifo poll makes the party the smallest in parliament alongside the Christian Democrats with just 4.3 percent voter support. 

This ten-year low for the Social Democrats’ partner in government puts the Greens in a precarious positions, since parties must score at least four percent of the vote to get into the Riksdag. 

With the party’s annual congress looming later this month, the joint spokespersons Åsa Romson and Gustav Fridolin are coming under increasing pressure to make way for a new duo. 

Political scientist Niklas Bolin, who specialises in the Green Party, said plunging ratings meant the leaders were running out of room to manoeuvre. 

“There is internal opposition, which mainly arose after the decision on migration policy,” he said, referring to the party's begrudging support for a Social Democrat-led plan to introduce ID checks to curb an influx of asylum seekers. 

“But there’s also a great deal of dissatisfaction with the spokespersons for how they have dealt with the events of recent weeks.” 

While most of the other parties were fairly static since the last Sifo poll in April, the Greens dropped 1.7 percentage points. 

“They’ve really been doing quite badly in polls since a few months before the [2014] election. At some point there comes a limit that leads to, if not panic, then at least major demands for change within the party,” said Bolin.

The Green Party was first plunged into crisis when it emerged in mid-April that the then housing minister, Mehmet Kaplan, had kept company with Turkish extremists. 

Fridolin and Romson deflected the criticism, even when a clip showed up of Kaplan comparing Israel to Nazi Germany, and they continued to back the minister after he announced his resignation at a joint press conference with the prime minster, Stefan Löfven. 

They were not helped by a party veteran, Per Gahrton, who was widely derided for claiming Kaplan was the victim of an Israeli smear campaign. 

Romson then found herself in the eye of the storm when she referred to the 9/11 terrorist attacks at “accidents”. She later clarified to The Local what she had meant but for many, the damage was done. 

More trouble came when a rising star in the overtly feminist party, Yasri Khan, refused to shake a female journalist’s hand. He resigned but commentators were left wondering what had happened to the sweet little junior partner in Sweden’s government. 

When pictures showed up of Green Party members including Mehmet Kaplan making Muslim Brotherhood signs, with four fingers held aloft, the head of Sweden's National Defence College said he feared the Greens had been infiltrated by Islamists

A Green Party politician in southern Sweden then said he was taking a break from politics after it emerged that he had invited a notorious Islamist to speak in Malmö. 

As if all that wasn't bad enough, the party's environmental credentials also suffered a blow when Sweden's state-owned Vattenfall sold its brown coal operations, a move the Greens had pushed hard to block when in opposition. 

Sifo’s extra May poll (percentage point change since April), commissioned by the Svenska Dagbladet and Göteborgs-Posten newspapers. 

Social Demoncrats: 26.5 (-0.2)

Left Party: 8.2 (+1.0)

Green Party: 4.3 (-1.7)

Moderate Party: 27.4 (+1.6)

Centre Party: 5.9 (-1.4)

Liberals: 5.4 (-0.1)

Christian Democrats: 4.3 (+0.8)

Sweden Democrats: 15.3 (-0.4)

Sifo interviewed 1,900 people for the survey between April 25th and May 3rd.