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POLITICS

Sweden is ‘in the process of dismantling democracy’: ex-Social Democrat head

Sweden's new ambassador to Iceland has caused a stir, after warning that Sweden is "in the process of dismantling democracy" and could be on a slippery slope towards technocracy or a dictatorship.

Sweden is 'in the process of dismantling democracy': ex-Social Democrat head
Håkan Juholt in Reykjavik. Photo: Magnus Hjalmarson Neideman/SvD/TT

Håkan Juholt, a former leader of the centre-left Social Democrat party and ambassador to Iceland since September, made the comments in an interview with the Svenska Dagbladet newspaper.

“How old is your son? Four?” he asks the reporter.

“When he is old he won't be living in a democracy but in a technocracy, or a dictatorship. It's sad as hell. I am sorry to say it, but I am 100 percent sure. We are in the process of dismantling democracy.”

Later in the interview, he says: “I don't think the threat is a dictatorship with tanks rolling on Sergel's Square (a well-known square in central Stockholm), but an expert rule where we do not let the citizens' values govern the country. Democracy is slipping through our fingers. Fewer people want to be elected, the parties are toning down their ideology. Sure, I see a risk that it may become a dictatorship in the long run.”


Håkan Juholt in Iceland. Photo: Magnus Hjalmarson Neideman/SvD/TT

Juholt did not elaborate on the comments, which have sparked criticism in Sweden.

“It's remarkable. It is the role of ambassadors, and the role of the government, to deliver an accurate image of our country and promote our country in the world,” Culture and Democracy Minister Alice Bah Kuhnke told the TT newswire, but said it was up to the Foreign Minister to comment further.

Margot Wallström responded she would not “argue with one of my ambassadors” in public.

“He will probably have to explain his thoughts himself,” she said, speaking to TT at a meeting of EU foreign ministers in Luxembourg.

“He will probably also soon learn, I would think, what it means to be an ambassador.”

Criticism has come from both sides of the political aisle. Karin Enström, foreign politics spokesperson of the conservative Moderate party, the largest opposition party in parliament, told TT:

“As ambassador and thus Sweden's top representative in Iceland, Håkan Juholt demonstrates a strange attitude towards the country he is supposed to represent.”

Juholt took over as party leader of the Social Democrats in 2011 after a devastating election loss the year before. Known as outspoken and jovial among his fans, a bumbling fool among his critics, he was ousted after less than a year and stepped down on January 21st 2012, following questions over the housing allowance for an overnight Stockholm apartment he stayed in at the time with his girlfriend.

CRIME

Swedish terror attacker sentenced to forced psychiatric care

A court has sentenced the far-right extremist Theodor Engström to forced psychiatric care for the knife attack he carried out at the Almedalen political festival this summer.

Swedish terror attacker sentenced to forced psychiatric care

The Gotland district court found the 33-year-old Engström guilty of murdering the psychiatrist Ing-Marie Wieselgren, but did not agree that the murder counted as a terror attack.

It did find him guilty, however, of “planning a terror attack”, for his preparations to murder the Centre Party’s leader, Annie Lööf. 

“The murdered woman had a significant role [in society], a murder is always serious, and this had consequences both for Almedalen Week and for society more broadly,” the judge Per Sundberg, said at a press conference. 

The judge Per Sundberg announces the sentence on Theodor Engström on December 6th. Photo: Karl Melander/TT

But he said that the court judged that Sweden’s terror legislation was too restrictively drafted for her murder to count as a terror offence. 

“Despite Ing-Marie Wieselgren’s well-attested position within psychiatry, the court considers that her position as national coordinator at the Swedish Association of Local Authorities and Regions is not such that her murder can in itself be considered to have damaged Sweden. The act cannot as a result be classified as a terrorist crime on those grounds.” 

The court ruled that Engström’s crimes deserved Sweden’s most severe sentence, a life sentence in prison, but found that due to his disturbed mental state he should instead receive “psychiatric care with a special test for release”. 

In its judgement, the court said that an examination by forensic psychiatrists had found both that there were “medical reasons” why Engström should be transferred into a closed psychiatric facility and that “his insight into the meaning of his actions and his ability to adjust his actions according to such insight were at the very least severely diminished”. 

It said that under Swedish law, a court could send someone to prison who was in need of psychiatric care only if there were “special reasons” to do so. 

“The court considers that it has not been shown that Theodor Engström’s need of psychiatric care is so limited that there is a special reason for a prison sentence,” it ruled. 

Lööf wrote on Instagram that the judgement was “a relief”. 

“For me personally, it was a relief when the judgement came,” she wrote. “Engström has also been judged guilty of ‘preparation for a terror attack through preparation for murder’. This means that the the court is taking the threat towards democracy and towards politicians as extremely serious.”

The fact that the court has decided that Engström’s care should have a “special test for release” means that he cannot be discharged from the closed psychiatric hospital or ward where he is treated without a court decision. 

The court must rule both that the mental disorder that led to the crime has abated to the extent that there is no risk of further crimes, and that he has no other mental disorders that might require compulsory psychiatric care. The care has to be reassessed every six months. 

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