Left-wingers start ‘internal opposition’ within Sweden’s ruling Social Democrats

A group of Social Democrats have started a left-wing movement within their party to put pressure on its leader, who signed a deal with former opposition rivals in order to govern.

Left-wingers start 'internal opposition' within Sweden's ruling Social Democrats
Social Democrat leader Stefan Löfven holds a press conference. Photo: Claudio Bresciani / TT

The group, called the Reformists (Reformisterna) has put forward its own left-wing reform programme in its first annual meeting, held in Stockholm over the weekend.

Its aim is to put pressure on Social Democrat leader Stefan Löfven and the party leadership to pursue a more left-wing agenda.

“Our programme and our suggestions are formed from the growing worry and frustration over the widespread inequality in society. And [the fact] that the policies of our party, the Social Democrats, are insufficient to meet society's major challenges,” the group said.

Among its proposals were an increased pension for those with low incomes, higher goals for creation of new homes, a reduction of the working week to 35 hours, and increased capital gains tax.

This would be financed through public and private investments, with around 3,600 billion kronor taken out as a loan, and the remainder and 400 billion covered by the state budget, according to Suhonen.

“We should increase the central government debt at an orderly pace for the necessary investments. Just like when a family takes out a loan to buy a house,” he said.

READ ALSO: First party leader debate reveals Sweden's new divisions

He described the group's agenda as “classic Social Democratic reform policy” and said that he hoped that the party would enter the 2022 election campaign with a manifesto closer to the Reformisterna's proposals than the current government policy.

The party's result in the September 2018 election was its worst in over a century, and the ensuing political deadlock lasted for months until Social Democrat leader Stefan Löfven signed an agreement with the Centre and Liberal parties in January.

That deal allowed the party to govern together with the Green Party, in exchange for Centre and Liberal influence on many policies.

But the Reformists was not created as a direct response to the so-called 'January deal', board member Daniel Suhonen told the TT newswire.

“It might look like that, but the main features of this programme were ready back in autumn,” Suhonen said.

He said the new group already had 130 members, including at least two current MPs as well as former ministers and politicians at the municipal level.

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Sweden Elects: The latest political news as the election campaign kicks off

What's Sweden talking about this week? In The Local's Sweden Elects newsletter, editor Emma Löfgren rounds up some of the main talking points ahead of the Swedish election.

Sweden Elects: The latest political news as the election campaign kicks off

In an interview that could have jeopardised his job a decade ago, Social Democrat Immigration Minister Anders Ygeman’s suggestion in DN that there should be a 50 percent cap on non-Nordic immigrants in troubled areas of Swedish cities showed how the debate has shifted in recent years.

That said, his comments did not go without criticism. The Left Party slammed them as “racist”, the Greens and the Centre Party also criticised them, and so did the Moderates and some within the Social Democrats.

Ygeman himself said that he had been misunderstood, that he had never meant it as an actual proposal, and that factors such as crime and unemployment were far more important in terms of integration.

“But of course segregation is not just class-based, it also has an ethnic dimension. If you have areas where almost everyone is from other countries, it’s harder to learn Swedish, and if it’s harder to learn Swedish, it’s harder to get a job,” he told public broadcaster SVT.

What do you think? Email me if you want to share your thoughts.

Campaign posters and a new poll

The centre-left Social Democrats and the Moderates, the largest right-wing opposition party, both unveiled their campaign posters last week, which I guess means that the summer holiday lull is officially over and the election campaign is now definitely under way. Just over a month to go.

It’s interesting that the Social Democrats are clearly trying to turn this into a “presidential” style campaign, taking advantage of Prime Minister Magdalena Andersson’s overwhelming popularity compared to the Moderates’ Ulf Kristersson, whose reception among voters is lukewarm.

A poll by the DN newspaper and Ipsos a month ago suggested that 37 percent of voters want to see Andersson as prime minister, compared to 22 percent who preferred Kristersson (12 percent preferred the anti-immigration Sweden Democrats’ leader Jimmie Åkesson, and the other party leaders did not get more than four percent each).

Andersson is in the unique position where voters like her way more than they like her party – a new opinion poll by Demoskop suggests that 28.7 percent would vote for the Social Democrats if the election was held today (the Moderates would get 20.3 percent). The same poll has all the right-wing parties with a slight majority compared to the left-wing parties.

Anyway, the Social Democrats’ campaign posters cover pensions, schools (specifically, limiting profit-making free schools), crime and law and order. Climate change is conspicuously absent, but a party spokesperson told reporters it will be more prominent in its social media campaigns.

When Kristersson, on the other hand, spoke at his party’s event to kick off their election campaign, he emphasised how he’s got a viable coalition on his side – a jibe at the Social Democrats, who will struggle to get their partners (specifically the Centre and Left parties) to collaborate.

He also reiterated his praise for the Sweden Democrats, and The Local asked several experts if the Moderates are the same party that fought the 2018 election, when Kristersson promised Holocaust survivor Hédi Fried he would not cooperate with the Sweden Democrats after the election.

Election pledges

The Local’s Becky Waterton has looked at the election pledges of Sweden’s four main parties, the Social Democrats, Moderates, Sweden Democrats and Centre Party. Click here to read her guide, it’s a really useful roundup.

And what about Covid? Is Sweden’s handling of the pandemic not going to be a talking point in this election? No, at least not if the parties have their way. The Social Democrats run the government, but most of the regions (who are in charge of healthcare) are run by right-wing coalitions. So from a strictly realpolitik perspective, no party is able to attack another without putting themselves at risk of becoming a target. Best forget about it.

In other political news…

… a Sweden Democrat member of parliament has been accused of sending unsolicited dick pics to women, the Moderates want to legalise altruistic surrogacy in Sweden, the Christian Democrats want a national scheme to improve maternity care, the Liberals want to make it harder for people with a criminal record to become Swedish citizens, and Centre Party leader Annie Lööf hit the campaign trail just before the weekend by pledging to reject any proposal for raised taxes after the election.

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 plus several extra features as a newsletter in their email inbox each week. Just click on this “newsletters” option or visit the menu bar.