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Poll shows cost of spring crisis for Swedish government

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Poll shows cost of spring crisis for Swedish government
Swedish PM Stefan Löfven and Deputy PM Isabella Lövin at a cabinet reshuffle in May. Photo: Erik Nylander/TT
10:26 CEST+02:00
A new opinion poll from Sweden's biggest statistics agency details the damage that a crisis-ridden period has done to the popularity of the country’s government.

Released on Tuesday, Statistics Sweden's so-called Political Party Preference Survey suggests that if an election were to be held in May 2016, the current coalition government would receive a combined 34.2 percent of votes, significantly less than a projected 39.3 percent of votes for the opposition Alliance.

The poll shows that the Green Party in particular has seen its popularity dented, estimating that it would drop by 2.2 percentage points from the results of the 2014 Riksdag election, to a 4.7 percent share of the vote in May 2016. The Social Democrats meanwhile would drop by 1.5 percent in the same period.

Taking in the opinions of 9,033 individuals eligible to vote in Sweden’s parliamentary elections, the poll is the biggest indicator yet of how a chaotic month and a half has impacted the Swedish Greens.

The problems started in mid-April with allegations that then Housing Minister and Green Party politician Mehmet Kaplan was keeping company with Turkish extremists.

Kaplan eventually quit, but more challenges would soon appear for his party. Only a few days later more controversy blew up when Green politician Yasri Khan refused to shake a female reporter’s hand on the grounds that it violated his Muslim faith.

Pressure built and Khan resigned on April 20th, with the two incidents in quick succession directing attention towards the Green Party’s co-leader and then Deputy Prime Minister Åsa Romson. The last thing she needed at that time was a high-profile gaffe, but that’s exactly what happened when the minister referred to the 9/11 terrorist attacks as “accidents” on one of Sweden’s most-watched breakfast shows.

The stressful period culminated in her announcing on May 9th that she would leave the centre-left government, with the party voting in her replacement Isabella Lövin a few days later.

The Statistics Sweden poll highlights the cost of that series of events, suggesting the Greens would have lost 1.2 vote percentage points from the last edition of the survey in November 2015.

While the scandals also had the potential to impact the larger party in government, the Social Democrats appear to have escaped relatively unscathed. The survey shows that Prime Minister Stefan Löfven’s party would actually gain 1.9 percentage points in the period since last November.

With an estimated 29.5 percent of votes, the poll also estimates that the Social Democrats would currently be the largest party in the Riksdag, followed by the Moderates with 24.7 percent.

Another point of note from the survey is that the anti-immigration Sweden Democrats appear to be losing support in 2016. While the nationalists are estimated to be up by 4.4 percentage points in comparison to the last parliamentary election in 2014, their support dropped by 2.6 percentage points compared to the previous edition of the Political Party Preference Survey last November.  

A clearer picture of the scale of change will be painted this Thursday when Statistics Sweden publishes the results of another poll asking the questions “Do you prefer one of the political parties more than the others?” and “But what party do you have the greatest sympathy for?”

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