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SWEDEN ELECTS

Sweden Elects: The latest political news and the migration issue no one is talking about

The Local's editor Emma Löfgren rounds up this week's key talking points of the Swedish election campaign.

Sweden Elects: The latest political news and the migration issue no one is talking about
Centre Party leader Annie Lööf was an intended target of a suspected terror attack. Photo: Björn Larsson Rosvall/TT

Hej,

Only two weeks left now!

Here are some of the political issues Sweden is talking about (and one of the issues no one is talking about) ahead of the September 11th election.

Nearly 300 Swedish election candidates linked to right-wing extremism

A new report by research company Acta Publica links 289 politicians running in the upcoming election to Nazi or racist views, including membership in neo-Nazi organisations, hate crime convictions, ordering Nazi propaganda, and having accounts or writing hateful comments on neo-Nazi websites.

The majority – 214 people – are candidates for the anti-immigration Sweden Democrats, 22 represent the centre-left Social Democrats and the right-wing Moderates and Christian Democrats have 20 each.

You can read more about the report HERE.

‘Troll army’ linked to Sweden Democrats

Left-wing Swedish newspaper Dagens ETC has broken a big story.

It reports that members of a secret propaganda group, or “troll army” as it writes, called Battlefield are paid by the Sweden Democrat party to spread online disinformation. An anonymous source claims that they sometimes receive their instructions directly from the top echelons of the party.

The Sweden Democrats have been trying to go more mainstream and distance themselves from their neo-Nazi roots in recent years, so let’s just say that reports of a group of keyboard warriors creating mayhem in social media on party orders aren’t exactly what they want.

Indeed, in an email to public broadcaster SVT, the party’s press office dismisses ETC’s article as “flippant and obvious activism”. But it does confirm that a group informally known as Battlefield used to moderate the party’s comment sections in social media.

Swedish party leader Annie Lööf target of Gotland knife attack

Annie Lööf, leader of the liberal Centre Party, was an intended target of the suspected terror attack at Sweden’s Almedalen political festival, the prosecutor has confirmed.

Theodor Engström, 33, a former member of the neo-Nazi Nordic Resistance Movement and a long-term psychiatric patient, fatally stabbed the prominent psychiatrist Ing-Marie Wieselgren in the main central square in Visby in July. But he has admitted that he had also meant to murder Lööf, who was only 40 metres from the scene at the time.

It’s hardly a coincidence that Lööf, whose party has taken a firm anti-racism stance during her tenure, was the chosen target. As the CEO of anti-racism organisation Expo writes, “the Centre leader is the great object of hatred of the Swedish far-right. In the end, the anger and hatred go from words to action”.

It’s difficult to imagine that Almedalen, a festival known for its openness where politicians mingle with the public, will ever be the same again.

The migration issue no one’s talking about

Immigration tends to be among the top ten of the most important issues in Sweden, when the voters themselves get to choose. A new survey by pollsters Novus puts immigration and integration as the fourth most important political issue according to respondents, behind healthcare (top), law and order (second) and education (third).

It strikes me that people often seem to assume that those who list immigration as a key issue view it negatively, but as the editor (albeit on parental leave) of a newssite that writes for immigrants, I would also list it as one of my own key issues, but for very different reasons. I wish more parties would tackle immigration and integration from that perspective.

The Local’s reader Ben Robertson writes about something similar in a new article about one of the migration issues that aren’t being talked about in the run-up to this election: “When it comes to migration policy, politicians may speak about the need to bring in language tests, or ensure that Sweden remains or doesn’t remain a country open to refugees, but not one is discussing the crumbling framework of the Migration Agency.”

Another reader told The Local’s new survey about their thoughts on the election: “I’ve found the focus on foreigners very confronting. Foreigners seem to be presented as the source of all Sweden’s problems. I worry this is a message that will impact my children.”

In the latest episode of The Local’s Sweden in Focus podcast, host Paul O’Mahony was joined by sociologist Andrea Voyer, journalism professor Christian Christensen and regular panelists Becky Waterton and Richard Orange. They spoke, among other things, about how Swedish party leaders miss the point when it comes to migration and integration.

It’s a really fascinating episode, do listen if you have half an hour to spare.

Don’t miss

Immigration and xenophobia aren’t the only issues that are being talked about in this election. Sweden expects energy bills to soar to record levels this winter, so don’t miss this interview with two professors about why electricity is such a big issue in this year’s campaign, and who is telling the truth about it. 

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For members

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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