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2022 SWEDISH ELECTION

KEY POINTS: How election pledges would affect foreigners in Sweden

Sweden's political parties have made their first election speeches and released the key issues for their campaigns. What have they said which could affect foreigners in Sweden?

KEY POINTS: How election pledges would affect foreigners in Sweden
Party leaders meet for a TV debate on TV4 in June. Photo: Fredrik Persson/TT

Social Democrats

The Social Democrats’ policies on migration are lumped together under the headline “Migration, asylum and refugee politics”, meaning there is a clear focus on topics affecting refugees and asylum seekers, and fewer policies affecting labour migrants or work permit holders.

They say, for example, that there should be “faster routes to work through language, education and housing”, and “no areas should be extremely vulnerable”, as well as proposals to provide more support to municipalities for welcoming refugees and reform laws on housing for newly-arrived refugees to prevent segregation.

They do say under the “work” section of their website, that they “want to tighten up labour migration”, which probably refers to their proposals to reintroduce arbetsmarknadsprövning – a system scrapped in 2008 where prospective labour migrants wanting to work in Sweden would only have their work permits approved if they were filling a position where there is a national shortage, and raising the salary threshold for work permits from 13,000 kronor to around 27,000 kronor.

Moderates

The Moderates’ manifesto is also lacking in policies specifically addressing immigration, although they do state that Sweden needs “tightened immigration for integration to succeed”.

On the migration policy section of their website, which is not highlighted as one of their key election issues, they propose introducing “a volume limit for reduced immigration”: a goal for how many immigrants Sweden can accept.

However, this does not cover all migrants – the Moderates specify later on that this goal is specifically for asylum-seekers in Sweden.

The right-wing Moderates do not want to reintroduce arbetsmarknadsprövning or the requirements suggested by the Social Democrats, but suggest instead that the should be a lower salary threshold should be raised to 27,540 kronor per month, which is 85 percent of the average Swedish salary (32,000 kronor per month). Seasonal workers such as berry pickers would be exempt from this requirement.

They also want to scrap the opportunity for people to change track from asylum to labour migration.

The Moderates are not opposed to working with the Sweden Democrats.

Sweden Democrats

Migration is – perhaps unsurprisingly – a key focus area on the Sweden Democrats’ website. They state that “mass migration to Sweden from illegal immigrants, economic migrants and asylum seekers has changed Sweden for the worse and has caused many societal problems that we now need to fix”.

To do this, the Sweden Democrats want to stop all refugees from countries which “are not close to us” and tighten migration policy to the “strictest possible level according to EU law”. They also want the number of migrants who do not have the right to be in Sweden leaving to be higher than the number of migrants arriving in Sweden.

They state that new arrivals in Sweden should receive “clear society information explaining what they need to do to fit in”, as well as a requirement that they “qualify themselves for welfare through supporting themselves financially”.

On citizenship, they believe that prospective applicants must “be able to speak Swedish, have knowledge of our society and our culture, have lived here for a long time and have supported themselves financially”. They further go on to say that those who don’t fulfil these requirements should “be given help to return home”.

They also propose that all foreign criminals, as well as those who are “asocial, and others who damage our society”, should be deported.

On work permits, the Sweden Democrats want to reintroduce arbetsmarknadsprövning.

Centre Party

The Centre Party has positioned itself this election as the only right-wing or borgerlig party who refuses to work with the Sweden Democrats, making it implicitly more pro-immigrant. It describes the Sweden Democrats as “xenophobic party with authoritarian leaders as its role models”.

In leader Annie Lööf’s election speech on August 5th, she described Sweden as “a mosaic of people with different backgrounds, lives and dreams”.

She further said that Sweden must not “let a racist, populist party decide how Sweden will be run,” indirectly criticising the other right-wing parties by stating that the Sweden Democrats’ views should be “a stop light for every true liberal, not a springboard to power”.

She also stated that Centre Party members “never close their eyes to issues, show that a brighter future is possible” and “stand up for everything which has made Sweden one of the world’s best countries to live in: openness, tolerance, freedom and common sense”.

On work permits, which are not a key election issue for the Centre Party, it is a proponent of keeping the current system: no to labour market testing and no to raising the lower salary limit.

Left Party

The Left Party’s election manifesto covers a number of topics, including some which are of relevance to immigrants. It wants to lower rents and build more accessible housing, improve job security and reduce gig work, specifically stating that “workers with foreign backgrounds are overrepresented in insecure, low paid and stressful jobs”.

“None of us should have to deal with racism at work or be dependent on their employer in order to be able to stay in Sweden,” the Left Party says.

The Left Party is also critical of Sweden’s right-wing parties in its election pledge, stating that right-wing politics “is about attacking immigrants, the sick, unemployed and people with disabilities, and limiting our access to welfare.”

On work permits, they are in favour of reintroducing labour market testing and against raising the minimum salary threshold.

Christian Democrats

Leader Ebba Busch’s summer election speech didn’t cover migration, with Busch choosing to focus on healthcare, climate, and law and order instead.

The Christian Democrats are not opposed to working with the Sweden Democrats, and non-election policies which could affect immigrants include their position on work permits – they want to introduce a 35,000kr salary limit, stop kompetensutvisningar or “talent deportations”, where qualified immigrants are refused a work permit based on minor administrative errors, and they want to scrap the opportunity for people to change track from asylum to labour migration.

Liberals

Integration is a key issue for the Liberals on their website, with policy focuses including a so-called förortslyft or “suburb lift”, aimed at reducing the number of areas classed as “vulnerable” where police struggle to combat crime, so that no areas of Sweden fall into this category by 2030.

The Liberals say that many “new Swedes end up in crowded suburbs marked by crime and low school results,” and that “many have their freedom and opportunities limited as they lack jobs and lack language ability.”

Their goal for combatting the exclusion they see in Sweden is to make it “easier to get a job quickly and support yourself financially – even for those who don’t speak good Swedish or lack an education”.

To do this, they propose introducing “entry-jobs for the young and new arrivals with a slightly lower salary for the first job and simpler rules”.

They also aim to prevent and work to dismantle “parallel societies”, by combatting honour-related violence “through more knowledge, but also stricter penalties”, and introducing “a stop for new religious free schools as they prevent integration”.

In addition to this, the Liberals have proposed mandatory preschool for children who don’t speak good enough Swedish, in order to aid integration. They state that “studies show that early preschool benefits children whose mothers are low-educated and whose parents are born abroad”, going on to describe these children as “the most vulnerable children”.

In order to measure levels of Swedish, they propose that they (currently optional) two-and-a-half year speech assessment for toddlers is made obligatory for parents whose children do not attend preschool, so those who “have issues with language can be identified earlier”.

Green Party

The Green Party’s key election issues are (unsurprisingly) climate and the environment, equality and democracy and human rights.

Some of its equality policies could affect immigrants, including its proposal to encourage state-owned companies to introduce a right to full-time work, as well as its goal to increase election participation in areas where rates are low – areas with high immigrant populations often fall into this category.

Finally, it wants to protect human rights and democracy and protect the rights of minorities. It states that “everyone should be able to enjoy equal rights and opportunities no matter their gender, ethnicity, religion, disability, sexual orientation, gender expression or age”.

On work permits, the Greens have said in the past that they are open to somewhat increasing the lower salary limit,  but that it must still be possible for those here on a work permit to, for example, work part-time alongside their studies.

They are not in favour of reintroducing arbetsmarknadsprövning, as they believe that employers should decide which skills they need rather than the state.

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2022 SWEDISH ELECTION

Why is Sweden’s parliamentary speaker election so important?

Sweden's parliamentary speaker is second only to the King in terms of formal rank. The prospect of a Sweden Democrat speaker taking over the role from popular Moderate Andreas Norlén has sparked debate. Here's why.

Why is Sweden's parliamentary speaker election so important?

On Monday, Sweden’s newly-elected parliament will elect a new speaker – talman in Swedish, but it’s still not clear who is likely to take over the post from Moderate Andreas Norlén, who has held the position since 2018.

How is a speaker candidate usually chosen?

There is no formal rule on how a speaker candidate is nominated, with the Social Democrats usually insisting the largest party supplies the speaker, and the Moderates arguing that the largest party in their bloc should provide the speaker.

Until now, that has meant that the Social Democrats believe the speaker should be a Social Democrat, and the Moderates believe the speaker should be a Moderate.

However, with the Sweden Democrats now the second-largest party in Sweden’s parliament, they have made claims on the speaker post, as they are now the largest party in their bloc, meaning under the Moderates’ rules, they should supply the speaker.

This has made the question of who should take over as the new speaker unusually charged.

Often – but not always, the speaker has been from the same party or bloc as the government. However, there are examples, such as in the case of Norlén, who has held the post despite there being a Social Democrat government for the last eight years, as there was a majority supporting him in parliament.

Moderate Party leader Ulf Kristersson sits down for a talk with Andreas Norlén, speaker of the Swedish parliament. Photo: Anders Wiklund / TT

How is the speaker elected?

The first time parliament meets after an election, members of parliament (MPs) decide which MP will become the parliamentary speaker and which three MPs will become the deputy speakers. These four speakers are elected in separate ballots, first the speaker, then the first deputy speaker, the second deputy speaker and the third deputy speaker.

The candidates are nominated by parliamentary party groups, after which a secret ballot is held where each MP votes anonymously. To be successful, a speaker candidate must secure a majority of votes – 175.

If no candidate secures a majority, another vote is held, where a candidate must still gain 175 or more votes to win.

If no candidate is successful, a third vote is held, where the candidate with the most votes is elected – they do not need a majority.

If the third vote ends in a tie between two candidates, lots are drawn to determine which candidate is elected speaker.

A speaker is elected for an entire election period – they cannot be removed by parliament during this period, and the role can only change hands after a new parliamentary election, which usually means that a speaker sits for four years at a time.

What does the speaker do?

The speaker – aside from being the second-highest ranking official in the country after the King – holds a prestigious position.

They do not have political influence and, if elected, must resign from their role as a member of parliament. But they have an important role to play in building a government, nominating Sweden’s new prime minister after an election and dismissing the prime minister if they lose a no-confidence vote.

Although there are checks on these powers – a new prime minister must be approved by parliament before they take power – a speaker could, theoretically, nominate four prime ministerial candidates to parliament in succession, knowing that each would lose a parliamentary vote, and thereby trigger a general election.

The speaker, currently Andreas Norlén (left) regularly welcomes foreign dignitaries alongside Sweden’s King Carl Gustaf. Here seen with King Carl Gustaf (left) and Finland’s President Sauli Niinistö (centre).
Photo: Anders Wiklund/TT

The speaker could also theoretically refuse to nominate a prime ministerial candidate despite them being the leader of the largest bloc, although this has never happened in practice.

It is also impossible for parliament to remove a speaker once they are elected, unless a new parliamentary election is held and an entire new parliament is elected, meaning that if a speaker were to misuse their powers, it would be difficult for parliament to replace them.

The speaker is the main representative of parliament, leading and planning parliamentary activities. The speaker is chairman of meetings in the parliamentary chamber and is an official representative for Sweden at home and abroad.

Why would it be controversial if the Sweden Democrats supplied the speaker?

Electing a Sweden Democrat speaker would be a win for the far-right party, as a confirmation that the party has finally been accepted into the corridors of power.

According to a source at newspaper Aftonbladet, the four parties backing Moderate Party leader Ulf Kristersson to become Sweden’s next prime minister have already agreed on stricter migration and crime policies, as well as who should be voted in as speaker of the country’s parliament when the role goes up for a vote on Monday. 

Multiple parties in the left-wing bloc have objected to a Sweden Democrat supplying the speaker, with outgoing Social Democrat Prime Minister Magdalena Andersson stating that her party is willing to collaborate with the Moderates and reelect Andreas Norlén as Sweden’s speaker instead in order to avoid a Sweden Democrat taking on the role.

Andersson said her party would be willing to “make an exception” to its principle. “We think there are arguments at this time, to have a speaker who can be appointed with very broad support in the parliament. What’s important is that it’s someone who can bring people together, either a Social Democrat or a Moderate”.

“I can state that Andreas Norlén enjoys great respect, both in the parliament, and among the Swedish people,” she said. “He has handled his duties creditably and during a turbulent time, and a problematic parliamentary situation.”

She said she was offering to discuss the issue with Kristersson to avoid the risk of a Sweden Democrat speaker, something she said would be “problematic”.

“This is a party whose whole rationale is to split rather than unite. This is also about the picture of Sweden overseas.”

Moderate Party leader Ulf Kristersson has not responded to Andersson’s comments.

Sweden Democrat former deputy speaker Björn Söder (left) and party leader Jimmie Åkesson (right). Photo: Jessica Gow//TT

There are also some MPs in the Liberal Party – who have agreed to support a Moderate-led government alongside the Sweden Democrats – who have stated they will not approve a government with Sweden Democrat ministers, and may also vote against letting them have the role of speaker.

Sweden Democrat Björn Söder, who held the role of deputy speaker between 2014-18, is a possible candidate for the far-right party. Söder is a controversial figure, having previously stated that Jewish people and Sami are “not Swedes”, leading to calls that he is not suitable for a role as a representative for all of Sweden.

Söder has also previously likened homosexuality to pedophilia and bestiality, stating in an article on the Sweden Democrats’ official online news site that “these sexual aversions are not normal and will never be normal”.

A public petition against electing Björn Söder as parliament’s new speaker had over 65,000 signatures as of September 23rd.

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