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POLITICS

Sweden Democrats lose power in their flagship municipality

The far-right Sweden Democrats have unexpectedly lost control of the municipality in Sölvesborg, the hometown of party leader Jimmie Åkesson, after their Moderate allies switched sides.

Sweden Democrats lose power in their flagship municipality
Social Democrat politician Birgit Birgersson Brorsson, who will now be mayor, and Moderate politicians Kith Mårtensson and Bengt-Åke Karlsson. Photo: Magnus Lejhall/TT

Kith Mårtensson, the group leader of the local Moderates, said her party had decided to switch allegiance and instead form a coalition with the Social Democrats, Centre, and Sol parties, after a “severe worsening in the climate of dialogue” between their party and the Sweden Democrats. 

The far-right party, which first won control of the municipality after the 2018 election, managed to increase its share of the vote by nearly 10 percentage points in September, giving the party a total 39 percent of the vote. 

However, Mårtensson said that the far-right party’s success had made them impossible to deal with in negotiations. 

“Unfortunately, after their election success, the Sweden Democrats’ top leaders lost all humility and cut away all the Moderates’ chance of having any influence at all. We didn’t see this as a coalition, but more like Sweden Democrat rule with our support.” 

Louise Erixon, who has served as the town’s Sweden Democrat mayor since 2018 and who is Åkesson’s ex-partner and the mother of his children, said she was “totally flabbergasted” by the news, which she said had “taken her by surprise”. 

She said it was “a betrayal of voters”, and that the Moderates’ only motive was to protect the jobs and salaries of their councillors, which the Sweden Democrats had wanted to reduce to reflect the Moderates’ reduced share of the vote. 

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“The only things they’ve cared about have been the well-paid posts and their personal incomes,” she said of the post-election talks. 

After the decision to go into coalition with the Social Democrats, Moderates in the municipality have complained of receiving a deluge of threats online, by mail, and on the telephone. 

“The weekend has been horrific,” Mårtensson told SVT. “People are ringing my private number and screaming that I should “burn in hell”. 

Jörgen Martinsson, another Moderate local politician said there had been a “hail storm of hate” against Moderate politicians over the weekend. 

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TERRORISM

Sweden to make it illegal to be active in a terrorist organisation

Sweden's government has submitted a new terror bill which could help convince Turkey that the country is acting to crack down on Swedish residents active in the Kurdish PKK terror group.

Sweden to make it illegal to be active in a terrorist organisation

The new proposal, titled “a special penalty provision for participation in a terrorist organisation”, will make participation in the activities of a terrorist organisation in any way that “promotes, strengthens or supports” the organisation punishable with up to four years in prison. 

“This is a wider criminalisation that takes aim at a slew of activities within a terrorist organisation that don’t need to be concretely connected to a specific terrorist crime,” Justice Minister Gunnar Strömmer told a press conference.

“Sweden has an increased terrorist threat which must be taken very seriously,” he continued. “Now the government is putting forward a legislative proposal which means that both participation in and financing of participation in terrorist organisations will be punishable.” 

Actions such as handling equipment, organising camps or locations for meetings, cooking or being in charge of transport for designated terrorist organisations would be criminalised under the new law, which Strömmer stressed was a “considerable widening of the scope compared to current legislation”.

In November, the country amended its constitution to allow the proposed bill to move forward, as it was deemed to infringe on Sweden’s freedom of association laws.

The proposal will now go to Sweden’s Council on Legislation, which judged a previous proposal to ban membership of a terror organisation, brought in in the wake the 2017 Stockholm terror attack, as in conflict with Sweden’s constitution right to free association. 

Under the proposal, serious cases of the new crime will be punishable by up to eight years in prison, while those found guilty of holding a leadership position in a terror organisation could be jailed for 18 years or even for life. 

The proposal criminalises all forms of support for terror organisations, regardless of whether it is financial or other ways of taking part in it, promoting it and strengthening it. 

Strömmer noted that “partaking in a demonstration or at a meeting will not in itself be punishable”, adding that said flag-waving in itself would not be criminalised but such activities could potentially be used as evidence in court.

The government hopes to be able to submit the proposal to parliament on March 7th, and for it to come into force by June 1st. 

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