Public Affairs Newsletter - January 2015

Thursday, 22 January 2015

Magnus Ehrenberg, founder and CEO of EHRENBERG Kommunikation, comments on the political situation in Sweden.

The December Agreement – a case of Swedish democracy

My home country Sweden has always been a perfect example of political stability. For decades, the country was ruled by a social democratic minority government, which was building majorities depending on the issue: Liberals and Conservatives supported defence and finance policy, while educational, social, energy and environmental questions were debated with the left-wing and green parties. In 2006, the governmental power shifted to a civic four-party coalition, the liberal-conservative “Alliance”. Despite losing their majority in the election of 2010, the coalition remained stable until the election in 2014.
Last year, the only real winners of the election were the extreme right-wing and xenophobic “Sweden Democrats” that gained 13%. In the democratic camp almost all parties lost votes. Nonetheless, a minority government of Social Democrats and Greens relying on 38% of the parliamentary seats was built and the social democratic party leader Stefan Löfven became the new Prime Minister. One of Löfven´s first official acts was, as usual, to propose a new national budget, which was refused by all parties outside the coalition in December. Instead, the oppositional budget proposal of the “Alliance” was set in place. Not content with its more liberal course, Löfven suggested new elections March 22nd 2015. But since a new election would most likely only lead to a further loss for the democratic parties and a possible further strengthening of the “Sweden Democrats”, Löfven forged a deal with the “Alliance” shortly after Christmas:
Firstly, it was agreed that today´s “Alliance”-budget would be amended in Spring 2015 to introduce a slightly more left-wing note. In addition, the democratic party with the most votes would set the Prime Minister in the two future elections, majority or not. All democratic parties would then also support the new government´s budget proposal. Furthermore, a tight cooperation in the matters of pensions, defence and energy was agreed, while in all other fields, policy is made “as usual” following the party lines.
The overall aim of this “December Agreement” is to cut the “Sweden Democrats” parliamentary handling opportunities and thus actively isolate them in the Riksdag. It is also beneficial for the biggest parties, which at the moment either have to regroup (conservative Moderaterna) or face a difficult governmental period with many likely parliamentary defeats (Social Democrats). Only time will tell whether this is the right means to deal with the “Sweden Democrats”. And from a basic democratic understanding, the deal is certainly critical. Yet, it is another example of how much policy in Sweden is dominated by the principle of compromise, common understanding and cross-party coordination.

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