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Here’s what Sweden talked about ahead of the EU elections

With the EU elections taking place on Sunday in Sweden, what are the key talking points? The Local takes a look at the stories and issues dominating the Swedish election campaign.

Here's what Sweden talked about ahead of the EU elections
Prime Minister Stefan Löfven, centre, on the campaign bus. Photo: Tomas Oneborg/SvD/TT

A groping scandal

The top candidate for the far-right Sweden Democrats has faced accusations of groping a party colleague. Another senior candidate, Kristina Winberg, was ousted after speaking to media about the groping.

The party announced on Sunday that MEP Kristina Winberg had been crossed off the party's ballot for the European election for “conspiring to smear party colleagues, with the help of the media”. 

Swedish tabloid Expressen said that its reporter had confronted the Sweden Democrats' top candidate Peter Lundgren a day earlier with allegations he had touched a female colleague's breasts. The woman in question and Winberg discussed the alleged incident in two taped phone conversations, Expressen reported.

Peter Lundgren first denied the allegations, but then told the newspaper: “I probably touched her breasts when we were sitting there, we were pretty drunk that night, and she pushed my hands away. I know that I put my hand on her breast but not with the intention that anything would happen. Not at all.”

READ ALSO: Who are the Swedish parties and what do they want?


Peter Lundgren is pictured being interviewed earlier this week. Photo: Anders Wiklund/TT

Lundgren has been reported to the police and a preliminary investigation has been opened into sexual harassment, but remains the Sweden Democrats' top candidate.

Meanwhile, he has reported Winberg for slander, and the Sweden Democrats released a video of Lundgren and the woman he groped.

In the video, Lundgren says he was “a dumbo” and the woman describes the party at which the incident took place as fun and that “it's unfortunate that it became as stupid as it did”.

The right to abortion

Women's right to safe, legal abortion has become a key question in the election campaign.

Christian Democrat Lars Adaktusson, the party's spokesperson on foreign policy and a sitting MEP, was revealed by Dagens Nyheter to have voted against the right to abortion 22 times in the European Parliament. He voted in favour four times, and abstained twice.

In the same votes, MEPs from Sweden's other parties voted in favour except the Sweden Democrats, who abstained in 12 votes, voted in favour in 12, and against in one vote.


From left, Christian Democrat leader Ebba Busch Thor with the party's deputy spokesperson Jakob Forssmed and Adaktusson. Photo:  Pavel Koubek/TT

The Social Democrats, Centre and Liberal Parties have spoken out against Adaktusson's decision, with Prime Minister and Social Democrat leader Stefan Löfven saying the politician should not be allowed to remain in Christian Democrat leadership. The party's official line is that it supports Swedish abortion law but that it wants to work to reduce the number of abortions and unplanned pregnancies.

In Sweden, women have the right to abortion for any reason within the first 18 weeks of pregnancy, but elsewhere in the EU, the procedure is in practice hard to access – for example in Italy where the vast majority of doctors refuse to carry it out – or outlawed completely, as in Northern Ireland where the procedure is illegal in almost every circumstance.

LONG READ: How Sweden got some of the most liberal abortion laws in the world

Threats against politicians

Politicians' safety and the need to protect democracy has also been a talking point during this campaign.

Sweden Democrat leader Jimmie Åkesson was the victim of a suspected attack on Thursday, when an unknown person threw a banger at the politician's car as he and his security guards left a meeting in Mariestad, near Stockholm. 


Sweden Democrat leader Jimmie Åkesson speaking to media. Photo: Johan Nilsson/TT

Prime Minister Stefan Löfven called the incident “an attack on our democracy” as he expressed sympathy to Åkesson and his family.

And on Friday, a second banger was thrown close to Åkesson as he continued on the campaign trail in Tranås, central-southern Sweden.

It came one week after an attack on a 15-year-old who was working as a canvasser at a Sweden Democrat election cabin in central Borås. An unknown person threw a coca cola drink over the teenager and ran away, Borås Tidning reported, and when the 15-year-old later spotted the perpetrator and took a photo on his phone, he was reportedly assaulted by several people.

Climate issues and alternatives to flying

As in the general election in September, climate issues are once again one of the highest priorities for voters.

Sweden's Green Party are to campaign for half the European Union's long-term budget to go towards climate investments and initiatives, as part of the “Green New Deal” agreed with other European green parties.

The Centre Party have also made climate issues a central part of their campaign, focusing on several ideas to make air travel more climate friendly, for example by emissions trading.

… but nothing about Swexit

Sweden's two most eurosceptic parties, the Left Party and Sweden Democrats, both dropped their longstanding pledges for Sweden to leave the EU earlier in the year, meaning that none of the country's major parties is actively campaigning for an exit from the EU.

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SWEDEN ELECTS

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.

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