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2022 SWEDISH ELECTION

‘It’s all go-go-go here’: High turnout expected among Sweden’s immigrant voters

With two days to go until election day, there was a long line of people waiting to vote at the polling station in Rosengård, Malmö, representing most of the ethnicities in one of the most diverse areas of one of Sweden's most diverse cities. 

'It's all go-go-go here': High turnout expected among Sweden's immigrant voters
People queuing to vote at the early voting station in Rosengård on Saturday. Photo: Johan Nilsson / TT

For Mariam Hussain, the local team leader for Sweden’s Election Authority, it felt like more people here were choosing to vote in advance this year than back in 2018.

“It’s all go-go-go here,” she told The Local. “In the last election, we had only 3,000 people voting here, and now we’re nearly at 4,000 already.”

According to data from Statistics Sweden, turnout in the parliamentary elections among citizens born abroad, although still higher than it is in most countries in the world, is lower than the very high rates among those born in Sweden. 

Some 74 percent of those born abroad voted in 2018, compared to 90 percent of those born in Sweden. 

However, analysis by The Global Village, which campaigns for better integration in Sweden, shows this voting gap declining dramatically among those born in Sweden with at least one parent born abroad. 

See below, how Swedish-Iranians with at least one parent vote abroad, are just one percent below the Swedish norm. 

Source: The Global Village

Among the voters The Local spoke to, surprisingly few seemed worried either by the way anti-immigration rhetoric has come in this election from the mainstream Moderate and Social Democrat parties as well as from the far-right Sweden Democrats, or about the risk of the far-right power gaining power and influence. 

“I would rather they don’t win, but they will have to cooperate with other parties,” said Benazira, 18, who was voting for the first time. “They have some good ideas when it comes to nuclear power and stopping crime, but they have some ideas that aren’t so good for integration.”

Omar Hashi, 45, was also voting the for the first time. He became a Swedish citizen last year after eight years in Somalia, where, he says, “there’s been war for nearly 30 years, so there’s no voting rights”.

“It’s the first time, and it feels very good. It’s very nice to choose who will lead the country in the future,” he said.

“I hope Sweden chooses the Social Democrats,” he added, adding that he was not too worried about what would happen if the right-wing Moderate Party led a new government with Sweden Democrat backing. “That’s the way it goes. What can you do?”

Another Somali man, sitting debating with a group of his countrymen over tiny cups of espresso coffee at the next door Calles Restaurang, said he was more worried about the price of petrol and electricity.

“I work in Lund,” he said. “I have to drive there and back several times every day, and at these prices, that really adds up.”

As for the threat from the Sweden Democrats, he said he believed that Sweden was a stable, democratic country, so he didn’t think they could do any real or lasting harm. “It doesn’t make any difference who wins in my opinion. We’ve got a constitution in Sweden.”

Several other Swedes with immigrant backgrounds expressed this same view, with a surprisingly large number saying they felt the populist party’s tough approach to crime and immigration made sense. 

“I’m not worried about the Sweden Democrats. They’re the party that cares about Sweden the most,” said one young man with a Middle-Eastern background, who refused to give his name. “They don’t want Sweden to be shit, the same as all the other countries. They want people to work.”

“I’m not worried about the Sweden Democrats. Whoever wins wins,” agreed another young man with a background in the Middle East, who called himself ‘James’ and who was also voting for the first time.

“I think that we as a country need workers who can get a good job and earn good money and not so many people who are just going to come and sit around living on benefits,” he said.

He was more angry about the new immigrant party Nyans, who he said wanted to “split Sweden”. 

Nurtan, a youth worker who was about to vote for the Left Party, said she had been “a little disappointed that there’s been such a big, big focus of everything that’s negative” in the election campaign.

“There’s been a lot of focus on gang criminality but the statistics show that gang criminality is not nearly as big a problem as some politicians want us to believe, so they can frighten us,” she said. “There should be a lot more focus on healthcare and on schools.”

As for the Sweden Democrats, she is strongly opposed to them finally having their big breakthrough in this election, demanding significant policy changes as the supporting party for a new right-wing government.

“I’m not worried, because I refuse to believe that they will get power. I believe in Sweden. I believe that we are not going to vote blue.”

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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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