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'Sweden will never let anti-democratic forces take advantage of democracy,' vows PM Stefan Löfven

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'Sweden will never let anti-democratic forces take advantage of democracy,' vows PM Stefan Löfven
Sweden's centre-left Prime Minister Stefan Löfven addressed the audience in Visby, Gotland. Photo: Vilhelm Stokstad/TT
07:57 CEST+02:00
Prime Minister Stefan Löfven spoke about democracy and his own upbringing as a foster child in his speech on the island of Gotland during Sweden's annual political festival Almedalen.

Löfven addressed crowds of around 4,100 people in Almedalen Park in central Visby on Thursday evening. A small group of neo-Nazis were also present, but did not attempt to create as much of a disturbance as they did during Centre Party leader Annie Lööf's speech the previous day.

READ ALSO: Why Almedalen Week is still relevant in the digital age

The Social Democrat leader slammed anti-democratic extremism – both online and in real life.

"Our country will never let anti-democratic forces take advantage of democracy in order to destroy it," he said in his speech, adding it was time for forces of good to choose the side of what's right.

He said that increasing online hate and threats against politicians and ordinary people risked decreasing people's willingness to get involved in civic life and have an open public debate.

"Who will want to engage in their society in the future, to want to be seen on television, write articles or even play football, if you risk being hit by this deep hatred, this total darkness?"

READ ALSO: Swedish footballer Jimmy Durmaz blasts racists

"I will do everything in our power in the EU, so that Europe will never again fall down into the darkness of hatred. I will use our voice in the UN and in all international arenas where Sweden has power, to defend the inviolable value of all humans," Löfven vowed.

He insisted that a united society, where people are given equal opportunities, is an antidote against hate, threats and extremism, reminding the audience of his own childhood. Löfven grew up in a foster family after his mother was unable to care for him, but he described his upbringing as loving and safe.

"There were a thousand ways my life could have gone wrong. I could have lost hope, become bitter, lonely, angry. But I was able to grow up with a feeling of community and being looked after."


Almedalen Week is one of the key weeks of the Swedish political calendar. Photo: Henrik Montgomery/TT

Löfven spoke relatively little about arguably one of the most polarizing issues in Sweden today – migration, and one of his party's campaign promises is to tighten immigration rules – but at length about traditional Social Democrat welfare policies. The party hopes a stronger focus on its roots will help it turn around poor results in the polls ahead of Sweden's general election in September.

The PM promised more investment in the sectors of education, health care and policing. His centre-left party said on Thursday it also wants to increase public pensions to 70 percent of a person's salary.

"People's lives can be changed by high demands and great opportunities. It is possible, if we stick together."

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