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POLITICS

How Sweden’s government deal has hit the popularity of political parties

Sweden finally got a new government this week after 131 days of deadlock. In order to get there, several parties had to compromise, and a four-party deal was struck between former rivals. So how has the new agreement affected the popularity of the different political parties?

How Sweden's government deal has hit the popularity of political parties
Swedish prime minister Stefan Löfven (centre) presents his new government. Photo: Anders Wiklund / TT
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Several of the political parties have seen significant changes in their membership figures after what's been called the January Deal (januariavtalet) in Sweden.

The deal paved the way for a Social Democrat-Green Party government with passive support from the Centre and Liberal Party in exchange for agreement on several policy points, such as changes to rental regulations, tax changes, and the introduction of language and civics tests for would-be citizens.

The biggest intake of new members have been reported by the Christian Democrats and Moderate Party, whose leaders described the deal as “absurd” and “an unholy alliance” after their two former allies agreed to allow a Social Democrat-led government.

READ ALSO: Who's who in Sweden's new government?

Who's who in Sweden's new government?
Photo: Jonas Ekströmer/TT

The centre-right Alliance (made up of the Moderates, Christian Democrats, Centre Party and Liberals) broke down after both they and the centre-left bloc failed to reach a majority. The Centre and Liberals refused to support a government that relied on support from the far-right Sweden Democrats, while the other two Alliance parties were prepared to accept this support.

Christian Democrat party secretary Peter Kullgren said his party had received 1,500 new members since the deal was first announced on January 11th.

“I think it's down to the fact that we as a party, and not least our party leader [Ebba Busch-Thor], have stood firm in the government negotiations and kept to the same line before and after the election,” Kullgren told the TT news agency.

The Moderate Party meanwhile reported an increase of around 1,000 new members.

The Left Party, who were not a part of the deal but reluctantly agreed to offer 'passive support', also appear to have gained.

According to their party secretary, membership figures are at their highest level since the early 1960s, with a boost of nearly 600 new members in the past two weeks.

The final party not included in the deal, the far-right Sweden Democrats, said they had received around 150 new members during the same period.

As for the parties included in the deal, neither the Green Party (who are part of the government with the Social Democrats) nor the Liberal Party shared their membership figures for 2019.

The Social Democrats reported an increase of members throughout January without giving a figure, while the Centre Party said they had received around 100 membership applications but had also seen some members cancel their membership.

READ ALSO: What does Sweden's government deal mean for internationals in Sweden?

What does Sweden's government deal mean for internationals in Sweden?
Photo: Anders Wiklund/TT

Opinion polls however have remained mostly stable despite the turbulence during the ongoing negotiations. 

A survey carried out by Ipsos for Dagens Nyheter showed only minor changes since before the election, but slight improvements in poll ratings for the Social Democrats and losses for the Moderate Party.

The Social Democrats were polling at 30 percent, according to the survey, a two point decrease from the previous month but still above the election result of 28.3 percent, which was its lowest share of the vote in over a century.

Meanwhile, support for the Moderates remained at 18 percent, the same level as December, while the Sweden Democrats also remained stable at 18 percent. In the election, they received around 20 and 17 percent of the vote respectively.

The Christian Democrats were down at seven percent, a slight decrease from December, while the Centre Party and Liberals saw slight increases to eight and five percent respectively, close to the support they received in the election. The Left Party remained at the same level as in December, at eight percent.

However, it is still too early to be able to predict what the long-term consequences of the January Deal and new government will be, both for the political parties and for Swedish society in general.

Member comments

  1. “… the far-right Sweden Democrats, said they had received around 150 new members during the same period.” I ask, then, who are the “far left” party or parties?

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SWEDEN ELECTS

Sweden Elects: How powerful are the Sweden Democrats now?

The Local's editor Emma Löfgren explains how Sweden's parliamentary committees work – and the role the Sweden Democrats will play in them.

Sweden Elects: How powerful are the Sweden Democrats now?

Hej,

The speaker of parliament has given Ulf Kristersson, leader of the conservative Moderates and the likely next prime minister of Sweden, October 12th as a deadline to conclude his government negotiations.

If Kristersson comes up with a viable proposal for a ruling coalition, the speaker will put that proposal to parliament within four days. Chances are Sweden will have its new right-wing government by mid-October.

What will that government look like? Most likely, it will consist of at least the Moderates and the Christian Democrats. Rumours have it Kristersson is hoping to bring the Liberals into the governmental fold, and it is unlikely that the far-right Sweden Democrats will be part of the government.

But anyone who thinks the latter means they will be left on the sidelines is mistaken. They will have demanded significant concessions in order to support Kristersson’s government (and especially to make way for the Liberals) from parliament, and judging from recent news, they got them.

In a joint press release last week, the right wing – the Moderates, Christian Democrats, Liberals and Sweden Democrats – said they had reached a deal on how to share responsibility for their parliamentary committees.

There are 15 committees in the Swedish parliament, seats on which are held by members of parliament, with larger parties getting more seats as well as more high-ranking roles such as chair and deputy chair.

The right wing is after this election entitled to 16 chair and deputy chair roles, and the Sweden Democrats will get half of those, the parties agreed. The key thing that many political pundits were keeping an eye on was which committees, as that tells us a lot about how far they got in their negotiations with the other right-wing parties. The answer: far.

The Sweden Democrats will get to chair the Justice, Foreign Affairs, Labour Market, and Industry and Trade Committees – all heavyweight committees. 

Their most high-profile appointment is Richard Jomshof, one of the most senior Sweden Democrats who in the run-up to the election gave an anti-Islam speech (not the first time). He will chair the Justice Committee.

The Moderates will chair the Finance and Social Insurance Committees (plus the EU Committee), the Christian Democrats will chair the Health and Welfare Committee, and the Liberals will chair the Education Committee.

On the other side, the left-wing parties will get to chair the Defence, Taxation, Constitution, Civil Affairs, Transport and Communications, Environment and Agriculture, and Cultural Affairs Committees.

So what exactly do the parliamentary committees do, and how much influence will the Sweden Democrats now have over legislation?

The votes of every member of the committees count equally (there are at least 15 members on every committee, representing the various parties from left to right), and the chair gets the final vote if there’s a tie. He or she also has influence over the committee’s agenda and over how meetings are directed, with the position also bringing prestige.

All government bills and proposals by members of parliament first go through one of the committees before they can be put to the main chamber for a vote. The committee adopts a position on the proposal and although the final decision rests with the 349 members of the main chamber, they usually vote for the committee’s position since the make-up of their members represent the parties in parliament.

Although chair positions give them a procedural advantage, the Sweden Democrats won’t have unlimited power over their committees, since as I said, the other parties have seats too and their votes count equally.

The main benefit for the Sweden Democrats is rather the soft power it gives them. The chair is the face of the parliamentary committee, and these senior roles will force the other parties to take them seriously.

Another aspect to bear in mind is that they’ll have enough seats on each committee that they will have a key kingmaker role where they can side either with the government or the opposition – giving them fairly significant negotiating power when it comes to future legislation.

In other news, the Swedish parliament last week re-elected the popular Andreas Norlén as speaker, it’s been taking much longer than usual to get a work permit (here’s why) and foreigners are calling for the Migration Agency to issue special visas to allow those affected by renewal delays to leave Sweden and return, the Nord Stream 2 pipeline has stopped leaking gas, and households in Sweden are starting to feel the economic squeeze.

In the latest episode of our Sweden in Focus podcast, host Paul O’Mahony is joined by Handelsbanken chief economist Johan Löf, as well as The Local’s Becky Waterton, Richard Orange and James Savage.

Many thanks to everyone who’s got in touch lately with your thoughts and feedback about Sweden Elects. I’m happy it’s useful to you. If you have any questions about Swedish politics, you’re always welcome to get in touch.

Best wishes,

Emma

Sweden Elects is a weekly column by Editor Emma Löfgren looking at the big talking points and issues in the Swedish election race. Members of The Local Sweden can sign up to receive the column as a newsletter in their email inbox each week. Just click on this “newsletters” option or visit the menu bar.

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