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Politics in Sweden: Family in focus as Busch kicks off November congresses

Richard Orange
Richard Orange - [email protected]
Politics in Sweden: Family in focus as Busch kicks off November congresses
Ebba Busch, leader of the Christian Democrats, holds her speech at the party's autumn congress on Saturday. Photo: Johan Nilsson / TT

The Christian Democrats' leader, Ebba Busch, sought to reclaim her party's role as the defender of the traditional family on Saturday, in the second of Sweden's autumn party congresses.


Back to the future for the Christian Democrats 

At its congress in Helsingborg on the weekend, the party voted for a long list of new policies to help parents stay at home longer with children.

"We are now taking the next step, which is to make it a little easier to stay home when your children are small, within the framework of the existing child leave system," Busch said.

"The Christian Democrats has always pushed for various tools to reach this goal: more time for your children. Secure families are a win for Sweden." 

The new policies include proposals to increase child leave by six months from 390 days paid out at 80 percent of the parent's normal salary to 570 days; to allow parents to take out quarter and half days, so they can stretch child leave out over more years; to give parents the right to stay home for three years and still keep their job; and to cut subsidies for day care. 

In her eight years as leader, Busch has taken her party sharply to the right on law and order and immigration, becoming the first right-of-centre leader to start discussions with the far-right Sweden Democrats.

Now her party is polling well below the four-percent threshold to enter parliament, with an internal tug-of-war on whether to stick with Busch's tougher policies or jettison them (and perhaps her), she is taking it back to traditional territory. 


About three-quarters of her congress speech centred on tackling anti-Semitism and the war between Israel and Hamas, but she still found space to mention "family" 14 times. In the few times she did mention gang crime – a mainstay of her speeches over the past few years – it was to announce a proposal to shift the focus of of relocation programmes for those leaving gangs from individuals to entire families. 

The importance of family is something the party's new, more populist, wing and its more charitable "soft" wing can agree on, and it also distinguishes the party from the Moderates, who are seeking to phase out extra child benefit for those who have several children and also to make daycare compulsory for three-year-olds in areas with crime problems. 

Out with the old for the Sweden Democrats 

The news in the run-up to the Sweden Democrats' congress, which starts on Friday November 23rd, has so far centred on nominations to the party board. 

Björn Söder, who in August was condemned for accusing the Stockholm Pride festival of "involving children and legitimising paedophilia", is being dropped from the board after nearly 20 years, as is Julia Kronlid, the Christian traditionalist who is now deputy speaker of parliament. 

Söder is the most gaffe-prone of the "Gang of Four" who took over and reformed the party in 2005, in 2018 writing on Twitter that the minority status of Jewish and Sami people in Sweden means that they were by definition "not Swedish". Söder had hoped to be appointed the speaker of parliament after last year's election, but was instead appointed the head of Sweden's delegation to the Organisation for Security and Cooperation in Europe (OSCE). 

The party's new secretary, Mattias Bäckström Johansson, said in an interview published on Saturday in Svenska Dagbladet that the party was now committed to either having ministerial positions after the next election or else being in opposition, with "no middle way". There is also likely to be some talk at the congress over whether Åkesson should be a candidate for prime minister. 

The party's Ungsvenskarna youth wing, meanwhile, is pushing for the party to put leaving the European Union, or "Swexit", back on the agenda, with its leader Emil Eneblad telling Swedish Radio that "voters deserve a policy where they know that if the EU continues its overreach there is an alternative, and that alternative is Swexit".


Liberal Party promises to block Sweden Democrats  

Ahead of the Liberal Party's national congress this weekend (November 17th-19th), the focus has been on whether the party would be part of, or even support, a government which included Sweden Democrat ministers. 

In an interview in Expressen on Monday, the party's leader, Johan Pehrson, pledged that he would never be part of such a government. "I am not going to be part of a government that includes the Sweden Democrats," he said, leaving open the possibility of supporting such a government. 

Jan Jönsson, the leader of the party in Stockholm and the leader of its internal opposition to cooperating with the Sweden Democrats, said in an interview published in Dagens Nyheter on Friday that he, and many others, would leave the party if it backed a government which included Sweden Democrat ministers. 

Jönsson also called for the party to block government plans to force teachers, social workers and healthcare professionals to report those living in Sweden illegally, and to oppose plans to lower the age of criminal responsibility from 15 to 13, or even to 12.  


Left Party abandons call to abolish capitalism 

The news ahead of the Left Party's congress, to be held in Gothenburg on the weekend of November 25th, has primarily centred on its decision to remove three of the most radical long-term goals from its party programme: taking Sweden out the European Union, dissolving the Nato alliance, and abolishing the capitalist and class systems. 

Jens Börjesson, the politician who led the development of the new programme, will tell the congress that it marks the start of a "sensible and rational Left Party determined to meet the polarisation of the [political] right with a strong case for unity". The document marks the party's first new political programme since 2004.  

Björn Alling, a Left Party politician in Linköping who has long criticised the party's leader, Nooshi Dadgostar, was also ejected from the party on Sunday for continuing to mount personal attacks on her and others over what he sees as insufficient support for the Palestinian people. 

Green Party to decide on new male leader 

The news ahead of the Green Party's Congress in Örebro this coming weekend (November 17th-19th) has all been about the internal complaints against the management style of one of its leaders, Märta Stenevi, and about who will replace its other one, Per Bolund, who is retiring from politics. 

Daniel Helldén, who was put forward as the lead candidate by the party's nomination committee last month, is reportedly Stenevi's nightmare candidate and it is still uncertain what will happen at the congress. 

The Moderate Party held its congress at the end of October. The Social Democrats do not have an autumn congress.


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