Sweden Update: Greens hold position of unprecedented strength
by Dominic Hinde
The day after the Swedish general election, the results were the most read story on the BBC News website. The entrance of the hitherto unknown right-wing Sweden Democrats, Sverigedemokraterna, to Sweden’s national assembly seems to have struck a chord amongst a European and North-American public whose main contact with the country comes through the dark crime novels of writers such as Stieg Larsson and Henning Mankell. For anybody who believed Larsson’s tales of a land teeming with Neo-Nazis and anti-immigrant resentment, this was surely proof of the truth behind his work, yet Sverigedemokraterna’s signifiance in the election is not so much to do with what they are as what they aren’t.
After being defeated by an alliance of centre-right parties at the last general election, led by Cameron-ite pin-up Fredrik Reinfeldt and his ‘new’ Moderates, the all conquering Social Democrats organised an alliance of the their own consisting of themselves, the formerly communist Left party and the Swedish Green Party, Miljöpartiet. The arrival of Sverigedemokraterna in the national assembly and the very narrow victory of the centre-right has left Reinfeldt and his multi-party adminstration without an overall majority. There is no prospect of either the leftist or the right wing alliances looking to Sverigedemokraterna for support, it being ruled out multilaterally by both sides in the weeks before the election, but as the incumbent Reinfeldt is still the preferred choice to form a government, and so it is that he is now looking to the Greens to bolster his rainbow alliance and give him a workable majority.
The polarisation which had taken place in the run up to the election means that many of the Green’s policies and campaign materials were a direct attack on Reinfeldt. For the Greens to get into bed with Reinfeldt and his existing alliance partners would require doublethink that makes Nick Clegg seem like a man of principled reason, yet the Greens have not totally ruled themselves out.
Maria Wetterstrand, co-spokesperson of the Swedish Greens and for many people the reason the party was able to break the ten per-cent barrier in early opinion polls, has said that the policies of the Greens and the Moderate-led alliance are not entirely compatible, yet were the parties to find enough common ground the gains for the Greens could be monumental. As the party who could make or or break an entire government, the Greens would most definitely be in the driving seat. Their long list of demands would likely include the scrapping of the Stockholm bypass motorway, a key point of the alliance campaign, and a moratorium on the construction of nuclear power stations similar to that achieved in the German Schröder-Fischer alliance of the early 2000s. As part of their commitment to decentralisation and communities, the Greens would be able to go along with the Moderate tax cuts for small businesses, though similar cuts for big business and the introduction of growth-based deficit financing would not be popular. As happened in the Republic of Ireland, it would also damage their image as a political organisation which represented principled and progressive politics, leaving them open to huge electoral losses and having to toe the party line when people are having their pensions cut and free schools are earning big at the taxpayer’s expense.
The arrival of the far-right as a major political force says much of previous goverments’s inability to effectively plan immigration policy, both from the left and the right. What it also means is that the Greens have a disproportionate influence on Swedish politics, whether or not they choose to use it and how wise it might be remains to be seen.
Dominic Hinde is a Scottish Green Party member and a research student in the Department of Scandinavian Studies at the University of Edinburgh.