How to understand the 2018 Swedish election through Abba songs

Lee Roden
Lee Roden - [email protected]
How to understand the 2018 Swedish election through Abba songs
1970s disco pop: the gateway to Swedish politics. Photo: Olle Lindeborg/TT

Swedish politics can be a tough sell, but with a general election on the horizon it's important to understand the state of play. To make it all easier to digest, The Local has called upon the help of Sweden's most universal language – Abba hits.


Voulez-Vous (The Social Democrats)

The Social Democrats are currently the senior partner in government and largest party in the Riksdag, but shifting political sands since the 2014 election means they will likely be asking others voulez vous (do you want?) to help govern come the autumn.

With current coalition partners the Greens struggling, PM Stefan Löfven will likely need to reach out for new support after the autumn election, be that in a formal coalition or on a more informal basis. Whether he'll serenade them with lines like "across the room your eyes are glowing in the dark" and "we've done it all before and now we're back to get some more" is a different matter…

Knowing me, Knowing you (The Green Party)

Current junior partners in government the Greens have been unable to recover from a string of scandals early in the term, plummeting in the polls to the point where they risk missing the cut-off point for Riksdag representation come autumn 2018.

It must be tempting to say "there's nothing we can do…we just have to face it, this time we're through", and even if Gustav Fridolin and Isabella Lövin do enough to ensure a place in parliament after the next election, their presence will likely be reduced significantly.

SOS (Moderates)

In contrast to the Green Party, the Moderates have shown that a crisis situation can be turned around by making tough calls. Such was the case when their leader Anna Kinberg Batra resigned following months of dismal polling in the summer of 2017, leaving what is traditionally Sweden's main rival to the Social Democrats with just over a year to find a new leader and pull off a hell of a comeback.

The "SOS" went out, and up stepped former Social Security Minister Ulf Kristersson, who was sworn in as new Moderate leader in the autumn, and by December had led the comeback so well his party were once again polling as the main rivals to the government.

As it happens, "SOS" also marked a comeback for Abba. Until its release in 1975 they had been fighting declining sales in international markets and struggling to replicate the success of "Waterloo".

READ ALSO: What you need to know about Sweden's party leaders

Take a Chance on Me (The Sweden Democrats)

Polls suggest Jimmie Åkesson's anti-immigration Sweden Democrats (SD) will not be the largest party in the Riksdag come autumn 2018, and that means he'll once again be asking other parties to "take a chance on me" and make SD part of the government decision-making process.

Until now SD have been frozen out by both the left and right sides of Sweden's political divide, but much has changed since 2014. Should some of the smaller centre-right parties like the Christian Democrats or even the Liberals fail to reach the cut-off point for a seat in the Riksdag, Åkesson may find it's worth reminding the Moderates in particular that "if you change your mind, I'm the first in line, honey I'm still free...".

Hopefully he will also choose to do so through the medium of 70s Swedish disco pop.

Ring Ring (The Centre Party)

The Sweden Democrats aren't the only party positioned to take advantage of a change in the Riksdag's make-up. The Centre Party could also be put in a position where their backing is key for a new government. Leader Annie Lööf has been clear that she would not participate in a government in which SD are involved, so things could get particularly interesting if the only other feasible government alternative is the Social Democrats with Centre Party support.

The Centre Party leader earlier this year said she thinks there will be "many long negotiations" over the next government – which presumably wouldn't be the case if she thought the outcome were as simple as the Alliance coalition in its current form taking power. Could Lööf be "sitting by the phone", waiting for a call from the Social Democrats come September? Some Swedish columnists think so.

READ ALSO: Abba's Björn calls #MeToo a revolution

Fernando (The Liberals)

Fernando's lyrics tell the story of war veterans reminiscing about a battle they took part in long ago, so they would likely appeal to Liberal leader Jan Björklund, who was a major in the Swedish Armed Forces before turning to politics.

The nostalgic tone to the song may also be pertinent, as former Education Minister Björklund has seen his party's support dwindle from the around seven percent of the popular vote they claimed during the heyday of Fredrik Reinfeldt's Alliance government, to a present day situation where they have a battle on their hands to make it into the Riksdag.

Thank You for the Music (Christian Democrats)

This hit was re-released in 1983 as a UK & Ireland farewell single, and Ebba Busch Thor's Christian Democrats may also be saying thank you and goodbye come September, as months of awful performances in polls suggest they won't make the cut in the Riksdag without a significant change between now and the election.

Fail to make it into parliament, and "a song and a dance" will be one of the few memorable things Busch Thor brought to the party since taking charge in 2015.

READ ALSO: Abba stars sue Denmark's far-right

Mamma Mia (Left Party)

Jonas Sjöstedt is more of a punk rock than an Abba kind of guy, but the Italian-influenced "Mamma Mia" may strike a chord for the Left Party leader. Eleven of his cousins live in Italy, and he attributes his political awakening to visiting them as a youngster in a northern town that at the time overwhelmingly voted in favour of the Italian Communist Party (PCI).

Ok, so it's not likely The Left Party leader will inspire a musical, feature film and live event as "Mamma Mia" has, but Sjöstedt can be quite content with how his party are polling heading into the election – consistently around the 7-8 percent mark.

Money, Money, Money (Feminist Initiative)

There was some excitement in the build-up to the 2014 Riksdag election that the Feminist Initiative (the biggest party not represented in parliament, which means it is rather small) could make the cut and shake up Swedish politics, but it failed to materialize and with 3.1 percent of the vote they missed out on a place in parliament.

Since then the party has failed to make much of a dent on the public consciousness, and are perhaps still most closely associated with leader Gudrun Schyman's 2010 stunt of burning 100,000 kronor in protest against the gender pay gap. "It's (still) a rich man's world," Schyman may argue. Abba founder Benny Andersson has actually tried to help change that by making big donations to FI in the past.

READ ALSO: Sweden's Feminist Initiative throws parties to raise funds


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