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SWEDEN ELECTS

Sweden Elects: Why tomorrow is a big day in Swedish politics

The Local's editor Emma Löfgren explains the key events to keep an eye on in Swedish politics this week.

Sweden Elects: Why tomorrow is a big day in Swedish politics
Swedish Finance Minister Elisabeth Svantesson. Photo: Maja Suslin/TT

Hej,

For the first time since before the election, the conservative Moderates are polling higher than their far-right allies, the Sweden Democrats, at least according to public broadcaster SVT and the pollsters at Novus.

They’re now at 20.2 percent, compared to the Sweden Democrats’ 19.4 percent. The change is small and not statistically significant, but is a confidence boost for the Moderates, whose leader Ulf Kristersson holds the post of prime minister despite his party being the second-largest on the right – being second is a role many Moderates will have found hard to stomach. Here’s a link to the poll if you want to compare all the parties.

Prime Minister Ulf Kristersson is set to travel to Ankara tomorrow to meet Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdoğan. They are expected to discuss Sweden’s application to join Nato, which Turkey is one of only two member countries (the other is Hungary) that has yet to ratify.

On the list of Turkey’s demands is that people it describes as “terrorist suspects” be extradited from Sweden, which has been hotly debated.

Tomorrow is also a big day in domestic politics for Sweden, as it’s the day when the new right-wing government will present its first budget bill.

Finance Minister Elisabeth Svantesson is set to hold a press conference at 8.30am. That will be half an hour after she, presumably, will do the iconic “budget walk” from the government building to the parliament building to submit the bill to parliament.

It always takes a while to get used to new ministers when there’s a change of government (just ask the new Moderate Defence Minister Pål Jonson, who through a slip of the tongue addressed his predecessor Peter Hultqvist as Defence Minister in one of his first parliamentary debates after the election) and part of me still thinks of Magdalena Andersson as finance minister, a position the Social Democrat held for seven years before she took over the prime ministership from Stefan Löfven in 2021.

Andersson was as well respected as they come as finance minister, but she also had the benefit of leading Sweden’s finances through a period of general economic growth. Svantesson will not have the same luxury.

Last week, Svantesson presented gloomy figures for the economy going forward, predicting that inflation could reach 5.2 percent next year, that unemployment is likely to grow, and that the economy will shrink slightly rather than grow. And she warned that the situation could get even worse. “The Swedish economy is headed for a rather grim winter,” she said.

Here’s a link to The Local’s 52 top ways of saving money in Sweden.

What else do we know about the budget? As I wrote last week in Sweden Elects, it’s usually announced in dribs and drabs in the weeks leading up to the release of the complete bill, so that the parties can maximise their media coverage. Here’s some of what we’ve learned in the past week:

Unemployment insurance should remain at the same level for now.

The government has said it wants to earmark another 50 million kronor a year for preventing honour-related violence, 100 million a year for making sports more accessible to young people in troubled suburbs, as well as increased support to women’s groups and healthcare in these areas.

It also wants to step up its investment in bioenergy and carbon storage, a technology which aims to convert and store carbon dioxide underground to remove it from the atmosphere. The 36 billion kronor in state funding from 2026-2046 will go to the lowest bidders, said the government.

While we’re on the topic of the environment, I recommend listening to the latest edition of The Local’s Sweden in Focus podcast for an interview with Kimberly Nicholas, a climate scientist at Lund University.

You can also read an interview with Nicholas HERE.

“The bottom line is that if the world follows the path that Sweden is now headed on, we are headed for climate disaster,” she says, but she also offers advice for individual people like you and me on what we can do.

She talks about what each of us can do in the spheres where we have power, and I love that idea that none of us are completely powerless. We may not be able to run a country and make big policy decisions, but we each have the ability to affect the world around us in some way, however small – whether it’s in the way we talk to our neighbours, the way we raise our families, the clubs or societies we join or the jobs we have.

As always, thanks for reading, and remember that if you sign up to receive this column as a newsletter in your email inbox each week you’ll get the column plus a few extra features. Just click on this “newsletters” option or visit the menu bar.

Best wishes,

Emma

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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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