Political Fragmentation Isn’t the Problem

Swedish parliament Stockholm
Parliament House in Stockholm, Sweden (iStock/El Mehdi El Khayyat)

Another political crisis in Europe, another chance to beat on multiparty democracy.

It’s not like the two-party systems of America and Britain are crisis-free, yet journalists in those countries have a tendency to find complex causes for their own political problems while reducing continental Europe’s to “fragmentation”.

Today’s example: Bloomberg, which argues the “turmoil” in Sweden “reflects a shifting political landscape” and this is a “warning to other countries with key elections looming — like Germany and France — where fractured politics have also upended old alliances.” Read more “Political Fragmentation Isn’t the Problem”

Swedish Housing Crisis Has Similarities with Netherlands

Stockholm Sweden
View of Södermalm from the island of Riddarholmen in Stockholm, Sweden (iStock/Goncharova Julia)

Stefan Löfven may be Europe’s first prime minister brought down by a housing crisis, but he is unlikely to be the last.

Löfven, a social democrat, lost the support of the far left over a proposal to allow landlords to freely set rents for newly-built apartments.

Rents in Sweden are usually negotiated between landlords and tenants’ associations.

Other countries struggle to find the right balance between public and private in housing too. Berlin instituted a citywide rent freeze last year, but it was struck down as unconstitutional by Germany’s highest court. Spain’s central government is challenging a Catalan rent cap. Authorities in Barcelona want to extend a moratorium on evictions that has been in place since the beginning of the COVID-19 pandemic.

But perhaps the best comparison is with the Netherlands, which organizes public housing in much the same way as Sweden. Read more “Swedish Housing Crisis Has Similarities with Netherlands”

Swedish Center-Right Adjusts to Rise of Far Right

Swedish Moderate Party leader Ulf Kristersson attends a meeting of European conservative party leaders in Brussels, December 13, 2018
Swedish Moderate Party leader Ulf Kristersson attends a meeting of European conservative party leaders in Brussels, December 13, 2018 (EPP)

Sweden’s center-right Moderates have broken ranks with other mainstream parties by holding talks with the far-right Sweden Democrats.

The Moderates, who most recently governed Sweden from 2006 to 2014, had until now backed a cordon sanitaire around the Sweden Democrats, who are still seen as beyond by pale by centrists and leftists.

But years of political isolation haven’t made the Sweden Democrats less popular. On the contrary. They have risen from 13 percent support in last year’s election to 25 percent in opinion polls, tying with the ruling Social Democrats and ahead of the Moderates, who are at 17-19 percent. Read more “Swedish Center-Right Adjusts to Rise of Far Right”

Why Sweden Still Doesn’t Have a Government

Swedish prime minister Stefan Löfven leaves an EU summit in Tallinn, Estonia, September 29, 2017
Swedish prime minister Stefan Löfven leaves an EU summit in Tallinn, Estonia, September 29, 2017 (EU2017EE/Raul Mee)

Two months after parliamentary elections, Sweden is still without a government. Neither the traditional left-wing bloc, led by outgoing prime minister Stefan Löfven’s Social Democrats, nor the center-right, led by Ulf Kristersson’s Moderate Party, has an outright majority, forcing the parties to explore other options.

I asked our man in Sweden, Johan Wahlström, to enlighten us on the situation. Read more “Why Sweden Still Doesn’t Have a Government”

Ignoring Nativists Doesn’t Work in Sweden Either

Stefan Löfven and Lars Løkke Rasmussen, the prime ministers of Sweden and Denmark, attend a press event in Helsinki, Finland, November 1, 2017
Stefan Löfven and Lars Løkke Rasmussen, the prime ministers of Sweden and Denmark, attend a press event in Helsinki, Finland, November 1, 2017 (Finnish Government/Laura Kotila)

The rise of the far-right Sweden Democrats proves that isolating nativists doesn’t work.

Support for the Sweden Democrats has hovered north of 20 percent since 2015, up from the 13 percent they got in the election a year earlier. They could place second in the election this year, behind the ruling Social Democrats but ahead of the center-right Moderate Party.

Sweden’s mainstream parties have deliberately ignored the far right and most of them share pro-immigration views, making the Sweden Democrats the only recourse for voters who feel their country — the most welcoming to refugees in Europe — has done its part.

With 20 percent of the vote, the Sweden Democrats could block a traditional left- or right-wing government. They already forced Prime Minister Stefan Löfven into an awkward pact with the center-right in the outgoing parliament, reinforcing the impression that the entire political establishment has ganged up on the populists. Read more “Ignoring Nativists Doesn’t Work in Sweden Either”

Social Democrats in Iberia and Scandinavia Try Opposite Strategies

Prime Minister António Costa of Portugal greets his Spanish counterpart, Pedro Sánchez, in Lisbon, July 2
Prime Minister António Costa of Portugal greets his Spanish counterpart, Pedro Sánchez, in Lisbon, July 2 (Governo da República Portuguesa/Clara Azevedo)

What is the future of European social democracy? Your answer may depend on where you live.

If you’re in the Mediterranean, it’s cooperation with the far left. Social democrats in Portugal and Spain have come to power under deals with far-left parties. In both cases, unwieldy coalitions were greeted with skepticism, but now Prime Ministers António Costa and Pedro Sánchez are riding high in the polls.

In Greece, Alexis Tsipras’ Syriza party has even supplanted the center-left altogether.

In Scandinavia, by contrast, social democrats are trying to win back working-class voters by taking a harder line on borders, crime and defense.

Both strategies appear to be working. Read more “Social Democrats in Iberia and Scandinavia Try Opposite Strategies”

Sweden’s Social Democrats Take Risk with Hardline Policies

French president François Hollande and Swedish prime minister Stefan Löfven attend a meeting with other European socialist leaders in Brussels, June 28, 2016
French president François Hollande and Swedish prime minister Stefan Löfven attend a meeting with other European socialist leaders in Brussels, June 28, 2016 (PES)

Sweden’s Stefan Löfven is taking the fight to the far right. Politico reports that the prime minister and Social Democratic Party leader is implementing a hard line on border control, crime and defense.

With his tough stance, Löfven hopes to avoid the fate of sister parties elsewhere in Europe who have failed to convince voters that they are still relevant now that the welfare states they helped build are well-established.

Polls show the Swedish left down a few points. The nationalist Sweden Democrats have moved up.

Löfven’s party would still get nearly 30 percent support on its own and 40 percent in combination with its left-wing allies; a far cry from the dismal performance of center-left parties in France, the Netherlands and the United Kingdom.

But like social democrats elsewhere, Sweden’s are losing their traditional, working-class supporters to the far right. Read more “Sweden’s Social Democrats Take Risk with Hardline Policies”

The Case for Permanent Coalitions on the Left

Swedish Social Democratic Party leader Stefan Löfven makes a speech in Stockholm, August 10, 2014
Swedish Social Democratic Party leader Stefan Löfven makes a speech in Stockholm, August 10, 2014 (Socialdemokraterna/Anders Löwdin)

Social democratic parties in Europe should make permanent alliances with smaller parties to their left and right in order to keep their constituency united, argues a Dutch political scientist.

Joop van den Berg, formerly of Leiden University, writes that the traditional social democratic alliance, between workers and the intellectual middle class, is breaking down. The former are defecting to either populists on the far left (Die Linke in Germany, Podemos in Spain) or nationalists on the right (the Danish People’s Party, the Dutch Freedom Party). The latter are switching to Greens or centrist liberals in the middle.

One way to stem this, Van den Berg proposes, would be for social democrats to ally permanently with the other parties of the left. Then they would no longer need to fight on two fronts at once. Read more “The Case for Permanent Coalitions on the Left”

Löfven Despairs at Swedes’ Gloom

Stefan Löfven
Swedish Social Democratic Party leader Stefan Löfven makes a speech in Stockholm, August 10, 2014 (Socialdemokraterna/Anders Löwdin)

Their economy is growing 4.5 percent this year and unemployment has fallen to its lowest level since the financial crisis yet Swedes are acting “as if everything is going in the wrong direction,” complains their prime minister, Stefan Löfven.

In an interview with the Financial Times, the Social Democrat insists that “all the numbers are going in the right direction, but the picture the public have is that the country is now going in the wrong direction.”

Recent surveys put his party and its left-wing allies almost 5 percentage points behind the right-wing opposition. Read more “Löfven Despairs at Swedes’ Gloom”