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Why Falun is the political centre of Sweden this week

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Why Falun is the political centre of Sweden this week
Prime Minister Stefan Löfven speaking in the central square ahead of the vote. Photo: Ulf Palm / TT
09:14 CEST+02:00
Falun Municipality is home to around 60,000 people and is best known for its copper mine, the local sausage, and traditional red houses. But this week it's become the political centre of Sweden as the town gears up for a re-election.

In September's election, votes cast by 145 people in the municipality were not included in the count after the bag containing them was delivered late, as The Local reported at the time.

The result of the municipal election was then appealed to the Swedish Election Review Board, which in February decided to call a re-election in Falun, taking place on Sunday, April 7th. Only the municipal election needs to be re-done, since the board decided that the missing 145 votes would not have affected the parliamentary election or the Dalarna regional election, all of which took place on the same day.

"It's very important. People should be able to see that their vote is just as valuable as anyone else's," Prime Minister Stefan Löfven said during his visit to the town this week.

The vote will be the first big test for the political parties after the so-called January Deal (januariavtalet in Swedish), in which the Centre and Liberal parties agreed to allow their former centre-left rivals, the Social Democrats and Green Party, to govern in exchange for some influence on key policy areas. 

Surveys of voter opinion carried out since January have shown the Christian Democrats (KD) rising in the national polls, while the governing Social Democrats have lost some support and both the Green Party and Liberals now polling below the four percent threshold required to enter parliament.

With Falun's re-election taking place at the municipal level, however, the focus there is primarily on local issues.

"My experience is that a lot of people are quite tired of politics now, and think that we politicians let the government formation drag on, which didn't do anything to increase trust in politics," Christian Democrat leader Ebba Busch Thor told SVT Nyheter on her visit to Falun, during which she focussed on the issue of elderly care homes.

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Another reason the Falun re-election is interesting is that Sweden rarely has only one election taking place at a time, since elections at the parliamentary, regional, and local levels usually happen on the same day, partly in order to ensure high voter turnout.

And re-elections are rare in Sweden, with the most recent example taking place in Örebro eight years ago. In that instance, turnout in the re-election was significantly lower than the first time: 63.3 percent compared to 83.3 percent. Unlike in many other countries, Sweden does not carry out by-elections if an elected representative resigns, dies, or is otherwise prevented from carrying out their role.

So all eyes are on the town in central Sweden, and this week the leaders of all the major parties have been in Falun to meet voters and campaign. The leader of the Centre Party, which currently holds the mayor post in Falun, has visited the area twice during voting week.

In fact, voting in the re-election has already begun, since Sweden allows 'early voting' (förtidsröstning) in all elections. All of Sweden's 290 municipalities were forced to open up early voting stations only for voters registered in Falun, at least ten days ahead of the election.

But the re-election hasn't been without its stumbling blocks. The Liberal Party ordered 10,000 flyers ahead of Sunday's vote, and instead received 2,500 menus for a Dutch pizzeria after an apparent mix-up at the printer.

"We have no luck with the post. First there's a re-election because of Postnord and then we get these pizza menus," Svante Parsjö Tegnér from the Liberals told the local Dalarnas Tidningar.

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