The Swedish Australian Chamber of Commerce (SACC) organised an informative debate last month, ahead of the Swedish elections on 9 September 2018.
We had over 40 members and guests listening and questioning our expert panel, skillfully moderated by our Vice Consul Anna Alvsdotter. The panel featured two journalists from the TT News Agency, Lisa Abrahamsson and Henrik Samuelsson who are based in Sydney, freelance journalist Johan Gabrielsson, plus Annika Flensburg who until last August was Press Secretary to the Deputy Prime Minister of Sweden, Isabella Lövin.
The 2018 election is shaping up as the most unpredictable for decades. The biggest debate is primarily about immigration and integration, which follows the huge influx of over 160,000 refugees in 2015, and the continued arrivals, albeit at much lower levels.
This has led to rising support for the anti-immigration party, the Sweden Democrats, who recorded 18.5% in the 5thof June opinion poll, up from 12.9% at the 2014 election. They have taken votes from both sides of politics, making the formation of a Government more challenging, as neither side admits a willingness to partner with the Sweden Democrats.
The current “red-green” Coalition Government of Social Democrats & Greens (with the support of the Left Party) is polling about 40%. This compares to the “center-right” Alliance of Moderates/Liberals/Center/Christian Democrats at 39%. However, the strength of the Alliance may be reduced, as the Christian Democrats are only polling 2.9% recently, well below the 4% minimum vote for representation in the 349 seat Riksdag.
The panel noted that support for the current Government has declined the most, with the Social Democrats down 2.7% to 28.3%, while the Greens are down 2.6% to 4.3% (close to the 4% minimum). The support for the Social Democrats is the lowest since before World War II, which is a big concern for the traditionally largest political party in Sweden. This is despite a strong economy, with low unemployment and Sweden continuing to rate highly on most international comparisons for businesses and quality of life.
While immigration/integration issues seem to dominate the debate, schooling is another hot issue, as well as health and aged care. Law and order is also important.
Issues not debated as much include the economy and jobs, as well as the environment/climate change. This seems to be because of the good economic conditions, and the fact that all parties acknowledge climate change and have fairly progressive views towards the environment. There are policy differences – obviously – but the views are less polarized than in Australia for example.
Swedish election campaigns traditionally start with “Almedalsveckan”, a week long “political fair” in early July on the island of Gotland. This unique political talkfest was initiated by former Prime Minister Olof Palme in 1968, making the event 50 years old this year.
So Sweden is facing a highly interesting election in 2018, with the formation of a Government a big challenge as either side is likely to need the support from the Sweden Democrats. Like recent elections in Italy and Germany, it could take some time to get a functioning Government, as new alliances may need to be formed.
The questions from our members were wide ranging, and came from many with different views, which was great to see. The Chamber’s functions normally finish around 8pm, but the discussion was so lively and the engagement so strong that we kept going until 9.30pm, and no doubt some continued the debate into the night at the bar.
This sort of event is a good example of what SACC offers its members, and membership is open to all, including the Young Professionals. Visit the web site for more information! https://www.swedishchamber.com.au.
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