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Why Falun is the political centre of Sweden this week

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.

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

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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2022 SWEDISH ELECTION

What’s the Swedish Christian Democrats’ abortion contract all about?

Ebba Busch, leader of Sweden's Christian Democrats on Monday presented an "abortion contract", which she wants all of Sweden's party leaders to sign. What's going on?

What's the Swedish Christian Democrats' abortion contract all about?

What’s happened? 

Ebba Busch, leader of Sweden’s Christian Democrat party, called a press conference on Monday in which she presented a document that she called “an abortion contract”, which was essentially a pledge to safeguard the right of women in Sweden to have an abortion.  

“There is room for signatures from all eight party leaders,” she said. “I have already signed on behalf of the Christian Democrats.” 

What does the so-called “abortion contract” say? 

The document itself is fairly uncontroversial.

It states simply that Sweden’s law on abortion dates back to 1974, and that it grants women the right to an abortion up until the 18th week of pregnancy, with women seeking abortions later in their pregnancy required to get permission from the National Board of Health and Welfare. 

“Those of us who have signed this document support Sweden’s abortion legislation and promise to defend it if it comes under attack from forces both within our country and from outside,” the document reads.  

Why have the Christian Democrats produced it? 

The decision of the US Supreme Court to overturn Roe vs Wade, and so allow US states to ban abortion has aroused strong feelings in Sweden, as elsewhere, and Busch is seeking to send a strong signal to distance her own Christian party from the US religious right. 

Abortion has been a recurring issue within the Christian Democrats with several politicians and party members critical of abortion. 

Lars Adaktusson, a Christian Democrat MP, was found by the Dagens Nyheter newspaper to have voted against abortion 22 times when he was a member of the European parliament. 

The party has also in the past campaigned for the right of midwives and other medical professionals who are ethically opposed to abortion not to have to take part in the procedure. 

So why aren’t all the other party leaders signing the document? 

Sweden’s governing Social Democrats, and their Green Party allies, dismissed the contract as a political gimmick designed to help the Christian Democrats distance themselves from elements of their own party critical of abortion. 

“It would perhaps be good if Ebba Busch did some homework within her own party to check that there’s 100 percent support for Sweden’s abortion legislation,” Magdalena Andersson, Sweden’s prime minister, said. “That feels like a more important measure than writing contracts between party leaders and trying to solve it that way.”  

In a debate on Swedish television, Green Party leader Märta Stenevi argued that it would be much more significant if Busch’s own MPs and MEPs all signed the document. 

It wasn’t other party leaders who needed to show commitment to abortion legislation, but “her own MPs, MEPs, and not least her proposed government partners in the Sweden Democrats and even some within the Moderate Party”. 

She said it made her “very very worried” to see that the Christian Democrats needed such a contract. “That’s why I see all this more as a clear sign that we need to move forward with protecting the right to abortion in the constitution,” she said. 

How have the other right-wing parties reacted? 

The other right-wing parties have largely backed Busch, although it’s unclear if any other party leaders are willing to actually sign the document. 

Tobias Billström, the Moderates’ group parliamentary leader, retweeted a tweet from Johan Paccamonti, a Stockholm regional politician with the Moderate Party, which criticised the Social Democrats for not signing it, however. 

“It seems to be more important to blow up a pretend conflict than to sign the Christian Democrats’ contract or look at the issue of [including abortion rights in] the constitution, like the Moderates, Liberals and Centre Party want to,” Paccamonti wrote. 

The Liberal Party on Sunday proposed protecting abortion rights in the Swedish constitution, a proposal which has since been backed by the Moderate party and the Centre Party

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