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POLITICS

What’s the political reaction to Sweden’s 2022 budget?

Sweden's government presented its budget for 2022 on Thursday with a raft of new reforms, but whether they actually come to fruition depends on whether the government can gather enough support in parliament.

What's the political reaction to Sweden's 2022 budget?
As a minority government, the Swedish government cannot guarantee that its budget proposal will be passed. Photo: Anders Wiklund/TT

Sweden’s minority Social Democrat-Green Party government relies on support from other political parties in order to be able to pass its policies, and after the collapse of a deal with the Centre and Liberal parties earlier this year, the Centre and Left are its most likely allies.

Because of the way the Swedish parliamentary system works, it would be enough for these parties to either vote for the budget or abstain — for a budget to pass, it just requires that a majority does not vote against it.

But neither party is completely satisfied with the measures announced on Monday.

“It is not at all a given [that the Centre Party will vote for the government’s budget],” the Centre Party’s economic policy spokesperson Martin Ådahl told the TT newswire.

He described the budget as a “mixed picture”.

Some of the key demands from the Centre Party, which until 2019 was typically allied with Sweden’s right-leaning parties, include changes to labour law, making it easier to build along Swedish coastlines, and to strengthen the right of forestry owners. The latter two issues have proved a sticking point with the junior government coalition partner, the Green Party.

The Left Party also said that some, but not all, of its demands had been met.

In particular, the party had called to scrap Sweden’s ‘qualifying day’ (karensavdrag) which means employees aren’t entitled to pay on their first day, a measure which was introduced temporarily during the Covid-19 pandemic but has not been made permanent in the budget.

Other requests from the Left had been increased requirements for small companies to cover sick pay, and for tax cuts for low- and middle-income earners to be matched by tax increases elsewhere.

The right-of-centre opposition parties, the Liberal Party, Christian Democrats, Moderate Party and Sweden Democrats, were also critical of the government’s budget.

The Moderate’s economic policy spokesperson Elisabeth Svantesson was critical of how the budget dealt with law and order and long-term unemployment.

“These problems which have escalated over the last few years need to be dealt with by Swedish politics. It doesn’t work to shift the focus to other things, the government’s most important task is to help people feel safe and to be safe,” she said. “The budget doesn’t deal with Sweden’s problems.”

These parties have the opportunity to put their own budget proposals forward, either as individual parties or jointly.

It isn’t unprecedented for an opposition budget to be passed; in fact, this happened as recently as 2018, when Sweden had still not received a government after a historically close election. The budget put forward by the caretaker government was not passed, losing out to a centre-right budget.

There is the option to make some changes to the budget in spring, but certain decisions are fixed for a full year.

Prime Minister Stefan Löfven has said he will step down if the government’s budget is not passed this winter, but he has already announced plans to resign in November at the party conference in any case. Finance Minister Magdalena Andersson is his likely successor, at the time of writing having received nominations from almost all of the Social Democrats’ party districts with no other candidate nominated.

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POLITICS

Koran burnings by Danish far-Right extremist no longer causing riots, Swedish police say

Swedish police said there have been no disturbances associated with the Koran burning by Danish far-Right extremist Rasmus Paludan and his party Stram Kurs ("Hard Line") this week around Stockholm, unlike the riots seen over Easter.

Koran burnings by Danish far-Right extremist no longer causing riots, Swedish police say

Paludan and his party have been holding demonstrations this week involving burning the Koran, in what Paludan describes as an “election tour” ahead of standing in Sweden’s parliamentary election in September.

However Swedish newswire TT has reported that few people have seemed to care about the shock tactics used and police have confirmed that no major disturbances have occurred as a result of the demonstrations.

This is in stark contrast to the demonstrations over Easter, which resulted in riots involving vandalism and violence aimed primarily at police. A total of 26 police officers were injured and at least 40 people were arrested.

“The police did not anticipate the extent of the protests and the enormous violence that the Easter riots brought with them. I don’t know if we have seen anything similar in Sweden in modern times,” Sten Widmalm, political scientist at Uppsala University, told newswire TT.

Widmalm says there are now fewer people turning up at Paludan’s demonstrations because of the number of people charged over the Easter riots. He also noted the increased police presence and adapted resources by the police, which has stopped anyone getting close to using violence.

Everyone that TT newswire spoke to a demonstration in Fittja torg, said they knew Paludan’s aim was to provoke people.

“I am a Muslim myself and I don’t care. For a true Muslim, all religions are equal. His message is to create conflict and irritation. You shouldn’t give him that,” Himmet Kaya told TT. 

According to Widmalm, there is nothing to indicate that Paludan will be successful at the Swedish election.

“On the other hand, I think that Stram Kurs has influenced Swedish politics very much in such a way that it has exposed large gaps in society. I think awareness of these has increased, due to the Easter riots – although it’s nothing to thank Paludan for.”

In Sweden, you must be a Swedish citizen in order to be elected to parliament. Paludan’s father is Swedish, and he applied for and was granted Swedish citizenship in 2020.

In order to enter the Swedish parliament, Paludan must win at least four percent of the vote in the upcoming election.

In 2019, Paludan stood in Danish parliamentary elections, achieving only 1.8 percent of the vote. Under Denmark’s proportional representation system, parties must achieve at least two percent of the vote in order to enter the Danish parliament.

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