On the Swedish Elections

The recent election in Sweden was characterised by some commentators as a “non-event” and “completely unnecessary”, since the Social-Democratic government remained in power, with the same two parties (Left Party and Green Party) supporting it in parliament – just as before.

Göran Persson stays on as prime minister, and can continue in the role he likes best (for many years he has been nicknamed HSB/he knows best – something he doesn’t mind). The Left Party lost substantially (its share of the vote dropping from 12% to just above 8%) and the Green Party just made the 4 per cent (4.5%).

Both these parties – but especially the Green Party – made it “absolutely clear” before the election day, that they would demand to be included in a coalition government with the Social-Democrats including ministerial posts, or they would join the opposition. After a few days of “game playing” after the election day, they succumbed to Papa Social-Democrat and his demands.

The Conservative Party lost one third of its electorate – the largest loss from one election to the next ever – the heads are now rolling in their party leadership. An extraordinary party congress in November will decide whether the present party leader remains at his post. Most of side-kicks have already resigned.

The most talked-about incident in the election campaign was when a TV team with hidden cameras revealed what the campaigners really thought about immigrants. The TV team had visited a number of ‘election huts’ (small temporary wooden huts that most parties put up in city squares, etc. during election campaigns, where you can meet and question party candidates), and asked them “sensitive” questions regarding immigrants, Muslims, etc. with the cameras openly rolling. Everyone gave, of course, all the right and progressive answers. (‘How welcome all immigrants are …’; ‘how important they are to a multi-cultural society …’; ‘how despicable xenophobia is’, etc. etc.). Later the TV team came back with a reporter with a hidden camera and talked to the same persons inside the huts, this time portraying himself as hostile to immigrants. And the politicians agreed! 17 out of 17 Conservatives did that, as well as the majority of the Social-Democrats! Only a small number defended a human rights position.

The worst responses were found among the Conservatives. “Sweden got the Chileans that Pinochet hadn’t had the time to deal with …; Muslims are good at two things: having babies and using our social security services…; I have lived in Africa myself, so I am sick of them …; I tell you if we don’t do anything about all these Muslims … etc.”

This, to a certain degree, explains the downfall of the Conservatives (and the increasing support for the Liberal Party during the last two weeks of the election campaign), but it also explains why Sweden has not got a reactionary, xenophobic party as in Denmark or France or Belgium, for instance. The Conservatives take care of that.

Issues that were not debated by the large parties during the election campaign were the EU and the EMU; the large and growing unemployment in the country; the large number of workers (especially women in the public sector) who are “burnt out” and on long-term sick leave due to this factor; Mr Persson’s support for the US-Britain war threats against Iraq; Mr Persson’s support for the war criminal Ariel Sharon in Israel; the fact that more and more families are now thrust below the official “poverty line”, when at the same time monopoly capitalists and the big share holders make huge profits and continue to give themselves enormous amounts of extra money, share options, generous bonuses, etc. The number of workers being sacked is growing as the crisis within industry becomes more obvious. More and more companies are bought up by foreign interests (ten years ago there were 2,800 companies owned by foreign capital, today that figure is 7,800!) 21% of all productive workers in Sweden are today employed in such companies.

How come that the Social-Democrats can remain as they do? All established parties (there are seven of them in parliament) have positioned themselves ‘in the middle’ – bourgeois liberals and market economy supporters. Many voters say: it doesn’t matter how you vote, it will still be the same. (The number of voters also decreased again in this election – it is now below 80%, which by Swedish standards is the lowest since the 50’s.).

There were also local community elections on the same day. The Communist Party – KPML(r) – stood candidates in a number of communities, and secured a number of seats in three of them. Even if we did not get seats in any more communities than before, we increased our votes in all but three.