Centre Party leader meets Almedalen tragedy with call for unity

Centre Party leader Annie Lööf called for "togetherness and reflection" in a speech at Almedalen that showed her able to respond to tragedy like a national leader.

Centre Party leader meets Almedalen tragedy with call for unity
Centre Party leader Annie Lööf holds her speech during the Almedalen political festival. Photo: Henrik Montgomery/TT

Lööf began her speech, which took place only five hours after Swedish psychiatrist Ing-Marie Wieselgren was stabbed to death, with a call for a minute’s silence. 

“Let us be quiet for a moment and take in what has happened,” she said. 

Then, the minute’s silence over, she began. 

“This evening, Almedalen is not a place for political gimmicks, conflicts and harsh words,” she said. “Today it is a place for coming together and reflection.” 

Politically, the speech was interesting in that it strongly emphasised her party’s support for issues such as refugees, foreign aid, climate change, LGBT rights, a support for Ukraine, but did not even mention the liberal economic reforms the party had managed to drive through with the January Agreement with the government, with tax cuts for the very richest, and liberalisation of Sweden’s first-in, last-out employment rules. 

At the same time she placed her party firmly between the left-wing and right-wing bloc in Swedish politics, telling the leaders of both the Moderate Party and the Social Democrats that they could have her support. 

“Ulf Kristersson,” she said. “If you want to have the Centre Party’s support to be prime minister, let go of the Sweden Democrats. Come back to the successful liberal politics which created the Alliance and meant that we were in power together for eight years.” 

“Magdalena Andersson,” she continued. “If you want to have the Centre Party’s support as prime minister, let go of left-wing politics. Build the next mandate period on a new social liberal reform agenda on which we build on the best of the January Agreement.” 

On Twitter, Jonas Hinnfors, a politics professor at Gothenburg University, pointed out that Lööf had not demanded that Andersson “drop the Left Party”, but only “Left-wing politics” (unlike what she said about the Sweden Democrats).  

And when she discussed the Sweden Democrats, Lööf’s rhetoric was tougher than that employed by any other party leader in their Almedalen speech. 

“Sweden is not Hungary, Sweden is not Italy, Sweden is not Poland. There’s no reason for a Swedish government to make itself dependent on an authoritarian, xenophobic party,” she said. “If only the will can be found, it’s possible to win support for taking power in Sweden among responsible, sensible parties. It’s been done before.” 

On energy, she rejected the attempt on Sweden’s right-wing to present nuclear power as the solution. 

“Stop putting team wind and team nuclear against one another,” she said. “We need more of every time of emissions-free energy. Double Swedish electricity production, because that will make the difference, for people and companies, in the cities and in the countryside.” 

She also called for a “new Marshall plan for Ukraine”. “Replace every demolished school, every playground, every bombed home. Build new roads and railways, hospitals and theatres. Build bridges, not just for cars and trains, but for a brighter future as part of the EU.” 

She ended a her speech with a series of call outs to anti-racists, feminists, LGBT activists, and people worried about the environment. 

“To all of us who are hankering after a greener, freer, and stronger Sweden ahead of us,” she said. “Our time is now.” 

You can read Lööf’s full speech here in Sweden and in English (Google translate) here

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Attacker ‘severely disturbed’ during stabbing at Swedish political festival

Theodor Engström, the 33-year-old man who stabbed psychiatrist Ing-Marie Wieselgren to death at the Almedalen political festival in July, was seriously psychiatrically disturbed at the time of his attack, forensic psychiatrists have ruled.

Attacker 'severely disturbed' during stabbing at Swedish political festival

According to the Hela Gotland newspaper the Swedish National Board of Forensic Medicine has ruled that the man was so disturbed at the time of his attack he had lost the ability to understand the consequences of his actions, and has as a result recommended that he be given psychiatric treatment rather than a prison term.

The agency said that Engström had still been disturbed at the time he was given psychiatric assessment, and warned that there was a risk that Engström would commit further criminal acts. 

“This is a question which has relevance at a future stage,” said prosecutor Henrik Olin. “It means he cannot be sentenced to jail, but will instead receive psychiatric care. But it is not going to change how the investigation is carried out.” 

READ ALSO: What do we know about the Almedalen knife attack?

Engström stabbed Wieselgren, who worked as psychiatric coordinator for the Swedish Association of Local Authorities and Regions, as she was on the way to take part on a discussion at the Almedalen political festival. She died in hospital later that day. 

Engström has admitted to carrying out the attack, telling police that he intended to make a protest against the state of psychiatric healthcare in Sweden.