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SWEDEN ELECTS

Sweden Elects: How powerful are the Sweden Democrats now?

The Local's editor Emma Löfgren explains how Sweden's parliamentary committees work – and the role the Sweden Democrats will play in them.

Sweden Elects: How powerful are the Sweden Democrats now?
The opening of parliament last week. Photo: Jonas Ekströmer/TT

Hej,

The speaker of parliament has given Ulf Kristersson, leader of the conservative Moderates and the likely next prime minister of Sweden, October 12th as a deadline to conclude his government negotiations.

If Kristersson comes up with a viable proposal for a ruling coalition, the speaker will put that proposal to parliament within four days. Chances are Sweden will have its new right-wing government by mid-October.

What will that government look like? Most likely, it will consist of at least the Moderates and the Christian Democrats. Rumours have it Kristersson is hoping to bring the Liberals into the governmental fold, and it is unlikely that the far-right Sweden Democrats will be part of the government.

But anyone who thinks the latter means they will be left on the sidelines is mistaken. They will have demanded significant concessions in order to support Kristersson’s government (and especially to make way for the Liberals) from parliament, and judging from recent news, they got them.

In a joint press release last week, the right wing – the Moderates, Christian Democrats, Liberals and Sweden Democrats – said they had reached a deal on how to share responsibility for their parliamentary committees.

There are 15 committees in the Swedish parliament, seats on which are held by members of parliament, with larger parties getting more seats as well as more high-ranking roles such as chair and deputy chair.

The right wing is after this election entitled to 16 chair and deputy chair roles, and the Sweden Democrats will get half of those, the parties agreed. The key thing that many political pundits were keeping an eye on was which committees, as that tells us a lot about how far they got in their negotiations with the other right-wing parties. The answer: far.

The Sweden Democrats will get to chair the Justice, Foreign Affairs, Labour Market, and Industry and Trade Committees – all heavyweight committees. 

Their most high-profile appointment is Richard Jomshof, one of the most senior Sweden Democrats who in the run-up to the election gave an anti-Islam speech (not the first time). He will chair the Justice Committee.

The Moderates will chair the Finance and Social Insurance Committees (plus the EU Committee), the Christian Democrats will chair the Health and Welfare Committee, and the Liberals will chair the Education Committee.

On the other side, the left-wing parties will get to chair the Defence, Taxation, Constitution, Civil Affairs, Transport and Communications, Environment and Agriculture, and Cultural Affairs Committees.

So what exactly do the parliamentary committees do, and how much influence will the Sweden Democrats now have over legislation?

The votes of every member of the committees count equally (there are at least 15 members on every committee, representing the various parties from left to right), and the chair gets the final vote if there’s a tie. He or she also has influence over the committee’s agenda and over how meetings are directed, with the position also bringing prestige.

All government bills and proposals by members of parliament first go through one of the committees before they can be put to the main chamber for a vote. The committee adopts a position on the proposal and although the final decision rests with the 349 members of the main chamber, they usually vote for the committee’s position since the make-up of their members represent the parties in parliament.

Although chair positions give them a procedural advantage, the Sweden Democrats won’t have unlimited power over their committees, since as I said, the other parties have seats too and their votes count equally.

The main benefit for the Sweden Democrats is rather the soft power it gives them. The chair is the face of the parliamentary committee, and these senior roles will force the other parties to take them seriously.

Another aspect to bear in mind is that they’ll have enough seats on each committee that they will have a key kingmaker role where they can side either with the government or the opposition – giving them fairly significant negotiating power when it comes to future legislation.

In other news, the Swedish parliament last week re-elected the popular Andreas Norlén as speaker, it’s been taking much longer than usual to get a work permit (here’s why) and foreigners are calling for the Migration Agency to issue special visas to allow those affected by renewal delays to leave Sweden and return, the Nord Stream 2 pipeline has stopped leaking gas, and households in Sweden are starting to feel the economic squeeze.

In the latest episode of our Sweden in Focus podcast, host Paul O’Mahony is joined by Handelsbanken chief economist Johan Löf, as well as The Local’s Becky Waterton, Richard Orange and James Savage.

Many thanks to everyone who’s got in touch lately with your thoughts and feedback about Sweden Elects. I’m happy it’s useful to you. If you have any questions about Swedish politics, you’re always welcome to get in touch.

Best wishes,

Emma

Sweden Elects is a weekly column by Editor Emma Löfgren looking at the big talking points and issues in the Swedish election race. Members of The Local Sweden can sign up to receive the column as a newsletter in their email inbox each week. Just click on this “newsletters” option or visit the menu bar.

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For members

SWEDEN ELECTS

Sweden Elects: Two new laws and the first major poll since the election

In our weekly Sweden Elects newsletter, The Local's editor Emma Löfgren explains the key events to keep an eye on in Swedish politics this week.

Sweden Elects: Two new laws and the first major poll since the election

Hej,

Two new laws which may have a huge impact on a lot of readers of The Local and this newsletter were voted into force in Sweden last week.

The first bill allows the government to hike the minimum salary required to receive a work permit from the current 13,000 kronor (roughly $1,260).

It was put forward by the Social Democrats when they still ran a centre-left government before the election, but the new right-wing government also wants to raise the threshold and Migration Minister Maria Malmer Stenergard said she wanted to do it as soon as possible.

The bill doesn’t state what the new minimum salary should be, but the right-wing parties have previously agreed to set it to the median salary in Sweden, which is about 33,000 kronor. So that’s what it’s likely to be.

In the best-case scenario, if I’m to be extremely generous, a higher salary requirement will help workers from getting exploited. A monthly salary of 13,000 kronor is quite low in Sweden – but on the other end of the scale, 33,000 kronor is fairly high, especially for young people, although some new IT graduates may scrape by. Full disclosure: I certainly did not earn that much when I moved back home to Sweden to work as a journalist.

The second bill launches a reform of the system of coordination numbers (identification numbers given to those who are not yet residents and thus not eligible for a personnummer, the ten-digit code that gives you access to much of Swedish life and admin), which is intended to both reduce fraud and make it easier for foreigners living in Sweden to use digital ID.

I’m keen to see how this one plays out. The personnummer is, like many things in Sweden, great if you have one, a real headache if you don’t.

My colleagues at The Local have taken a look at the impact that the reform of the coordination numbers could have – here’s a link to their article.

In other news

The Swedish government has promised to carry out the first national census in more than 30 years. This article explains what we know about the plans, and when and if it is likely to happen. That motion was passed by chance back in April, after the business minister at the time accidentally pushed the wrong button. I believe the technical term is “oops!”.

The Social Democrats jump ahead in the first major poll by national number-crunchers Statistics Sweden since the election. If an election were held today, 34.6 percent of respondents say they would vote for them – a statistically significant increase of 4.3 percentage points since the election.

The Left Party is up 0.9 percentage points to 7.6 percent.

The same poll sees a statistically significant drop in support for in particular the far-right Sweden Democrats (down 2.3 percentage points to 18.2 percent) but also for the Centre Party and Green Party.

The rest of the changes are not statistically significant, but if you’re interested you can find them all on Statistics Sweden’s website.

The government has been criticised after it decided not to extend a project that awarded state funding to the Swedish Committee Against Anti-Semitism (SKMA) for informing teachers and pupils in lower secondary school about the Holocaust, anti-Semitism and racism.

After that story was published by the left-wing ETC newspaper, it’s become increasingly unclear what’s going to happen. The government has said that it will instead present a substantial package this week to combat anti-Semitism, which will also include money earmarked for the SKMA.

So we’ll have to wait and see. I’ll get back to you next week.

What’s next?

The court is expected to pronounce the verdict and sentence against Theodor Engström tomorrow. The 33-year-old Engström is accused of (and has pleaded guilty to) murdering psychiatrist Ing-Marie Wieselgren at Sweden’s political festival Almedalen Week earlier this year. 

The prosecutor during the trial urged the court to sentence him to life in jail for what was also described as a terror offence, designed to instill fear in the Swedish public. One of the other intended targets was Centre Party leader Annie Lööf, although Engström was caught before attacking her.

The defence on the other hand argued that as Engström was affected by a serious psychatric disorder at the time of the murder he should instead receive forensic psychiatric care, specialised care for convicted criminals.

On Sunday, the leaders of Sweden’s eight parties will go head to head in the first major televised debate since the election.

They were supposed to have appeared last Sunday, but both Prime Minister Ulf Kristersson and Sweden Democrat leader Jimmie Åkesson caught colds, so it was postponed.

You can watch it here (in Swedish) and don’t quote me on this but I believe it will be available to watch wherever you are in the world, not just in Sweden.

Sweden Elects is a weekly column by Editor Emma Löfgren looking at the big talking points and issues after the Swedish election. Members of The Local Sweden can sign up to receive the column as a newsletter in their email inbox each week. Just click on this “newsletters” option or visit the menu bar.

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