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Politics in Sweden: What did we learn from the Greens' and Liberals' party conferences?

Emma Löfgren
Emma Löfgren - [email protected]
Politics in Sweden: What did we learn from the Greens' and Liberals' party conferences?
Green Party leaders Märta Stenevi and Daniel Helldén. Photo: Christine Olsson/TT

Sweden's party conference season continues, with the Greens electing a new co-leader and the Liberals hashing out their policies for the year ahead.


Daniel Helldén, after several rounds of voting at the Green Party’s annual congress, became new co-leader with the narrowest possible margin: 131 votes against 130 for his rival, Magnus P Wåhlin.

Helldén, a former councillor in charge of transport in Stockholm, will replace Per Bolund and run the Greens alongside Märta Stenevi, who was re-elected unopposed as the party’s female leader.

His victory, as The Local has previously reported, has been seen as a blow to Stenevi, who argues that the party should have a broad focus, with policies on all issues and not just on the climate crisis – whereas Helldén belongs to the faction pushing for a more narrow environmental focus.

But the two leaders did their best to present a united front at the conference.

“What we’re going to do now is travel and meet everyone in the party,” Swedish news agency TT quoted Helldén as saying. “Our collaboration is great. This is going to work out.”

Stenevi said she was “convinced” that the party would rally around Helldén, even those who didn’t vote for him.

“I look forward to me and Daniel being able to start working for real,” she said.

Helldén in his first speech as co-leader called on the party, which is languishing in the polls, to get on the barricades for green issues and convince more people to join the environmental movement.

“We will be the green light in Sweden that defends a sustainable future without shortcuts such as poorly designed mines, relaxed permits, poisoned waters,” he said. “Nuclear power must be called by its proper name: life-threatening and totally irresponsible technology. The future is renewable.”

The other piece of interesting news to emerge from the congress was that the Green Party decided to drop its opposition to Nato, meaning that when Sweden eventually joins, it won’t campaign to leave. The Greens and the Left were the only two parties that voted no to Nato membership.


The Liberals, who enjoy even less support in the polls than the Greens, but have the upper hand in that they are part of the right-wing coalition government, also held their congress on the weekend.

They didn’t have a leadership battle to keep its members and representatives of the Swedish press entertained, so focused instead on the issues that they want to campaign for in the year ahead.

On the one hand, many of those policies are unlikely to reshape Swedish society in the near future, as the small Liberals currently hold relatively limited political clout despite being in government.

One such suggestion was to keep Sweden’s state-owned alcohol chain Systembolaget open on Sundays and increase opening hours to 8pm, and to allow other shops to get an alcohol licence.

Liberal Party leader Johan Pehrson. Photo: Carolina Byrmo/TT

But other policies may be an indicator of the current and future faultlines of the government.

For example, the Liberals after heated debate at the congress voted no to proposing an inquiry into banning headscarves in preschools and schools. If they had voted yes, it would have meant that all three government parties and the far-right Sweden Democrats supported such an inquiry.

The party also voted to reject a potential future bill, which would see public sector workers obliged to report people living illegally in Sweden, unless exceptions are made for schools and healthcare.

Its members also agreed at the congress that staff who fail to alert the police or Migration Agency if they come into contact with people without the right to be in Sweden should face no repercussions.

Tough negotiations are still be be expected when the final details of the bill are hashed out between the Liberals, the Moderates, Christian Democrats and Sweden Democrats after an ongoing inquiry presents its proposals in July. The bid is one of the more controversial parts of the Tidö Agreement – the deal which allowed the government to assume office – with many Liberals opposed to it.


In other news

The Sweden Democrats are polling at 22.1 percent in the latest survey by Novus on behalf of Svenska Dagbladet, behind the centre-left Social Democrats at 37.8 but ahead of the Moderates at 17.4 percent. The Left Party (7.7 percent), Green Party, Centre Party (both 4.2 percent), Christian Democrats (2.8 percent) and Liberals (2.7 percent) make up the rest of the parties.

Petra Lundh, currently the president of the Svea Court of Appeals, will become national police chief on December 1st, after Anders Thornberg quit to become county governor in Halland. She will be Sweden’s first female national police chief and some of her first tasks will be to try to increase local police presence, improve the crime clear-up rate and tackle a wave of violent gang crime.

Ali Esbati, finance spokesperson for the Left Party, will resign from his position as member of parliament next year, he writes on social media. He writes that the reason behind his decision is to get more time with his daughter, who lives in Oslo with her mother.

Politics in Sweden is a weekly column looking at the big talking points and issues in Swedish politics. Members of The Local Sweden can sign up to receive an email alert when the column is published. Just click on this “newsletters" option or visit the menu bar.


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