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Monday, September 15, 2014

The Swedish election results may be a net neutral for Cameron’s EU renegotiation plans

The Swedish election results were a mess. The Social Democrats and two other opposition parties, the Greens and Left, garnered 43.7% of the vote, against 39.1% for the sitting centre-right Coalition. The anti-immigration Sweden Democrats won 13% of the vote, up from 5.7% in 2010. The leader of the Social Democrats as well as two minor centre-right parties have ruled out a grand coalition, meaning that the most likely outcome is a fragile, minority centre-left government.

There’s a lot one can say about the result. Without a doubt, the big story is the rise of the Sweden Democrats. It’s fair to say that Swedish media and politicians are this morning pretty much panicking, at the prospect of SD holding the balance of power – despite an absolutely massive media campaign against the party leading up to the elections. As expected, all seven mainstream parties have declared that they won’t deal with the Sweden Democrats but, with the party now controlling 49 out of 349 seats in the Riksdag, is this sustainable? And will it hurt or help SD in future? The metropolitan elite ganging up on SD hasn’t worked well so far. In several Councils in southern Sweden, SD won around 30% of the vote, which is concerning.

Some UK media has gone with the headline “Cameron has lost a key EU ally”. Others have argued that the leftist shift in Sweden has further undermined Cameron’s prospects for renegotiation. This is not quite telling the full story. As a whole, a centre-left government including the Greens, drawing on support from the Far Left – two parties that up until recently opposed Swedish EU membership – may in fact become more Eurosceptic. Swedish unions, at least on a membership level, are a hotbed for euroscepticism. On the euro, the Left is much more sceptical than the right. Though the euro debate is dead, this matters politically as the less Sweden perceives itself as a “pre-in” (remember, Sweden doesn’t have a legal opt-out from the euro), the more sympathetic it might be to UK objectives to define the EU as a club beyond the euro. Remember, Moderaterna still had people like Carl Bildt who recently said that Sweden should and will join the euro. On issues like the EU budget, democracy and transparency a centre-left government will be just as helpful as the Reindfeldt government.

Still, a centre-left government might be less keen on free trade and dynamic financial markets, though in truth, any Swedish minority government would and will have to work hard to get through an ambitious services directive for example. And by simply belonging to a political family, the willingness to strike deals may be tempered. Also, Reinfeldt and Cameron did get along on a personal level, though that relationship was strained recently (as it became between Anders Borg and George Osborne).

Instead. the significance of the Swedish elections was the fragmentation of the centre, and the rise of an anti-establishment party, that the mainstream still has no convincing answers to. In that sense, Sweden just became a bit more European – and we don’t mean that in a good way in this instance.


Average Englishman said...

"Instead. the significance of the Swedish elections was the fragmentation of the centre, and the rise of an anti-establishment party, that the mainstream still has no convincing answers to. In that sense, Sweden just became a bit more European – and we don’t mean that in a good way in this instance."

So OE Blog Team, why is it not a good thing for the wishes of the electorate in any EU country to be reflected in the rise of a new party? Would you prefer such opinions to be crushed? Methinks you betray a little political bias here. If Cameron, the Swedish establishment, the EU Commissars, et al continue to ignore the wishes of the people and press ahead with EU Federalist policies that result in mass immigration they must expect to reap the consequences. Surely it is better that such feelings are expressed via the ballot box rather than on the streets with guns and bombs? It is worth remembering that the Provisional IRA in Northern Ireland only ever received political support from about 5% of the population and military style action (bombs and the rest) was only down to hundreds of committed zealots, and look how much 'trouble' they caused when their concerns (many legitimate) were ignored.

No, we should all celebrate that the democratic process is working in Sweden and if the likes of the EUSSR and Open Europe don't happen to like the results, how about listening to what the people want and drafting policies that deal with their concerns for a change? The alternative of lambasting them as dangerous nutters does not work, (even Dave has now worked that one out the hard way and you have stated above that the rise of the anti-establishmnent party in Sweden is happening against a massive campaign from the main parties and the press; all to no avail).

So guys, if you don't like what is happening in Sweden and elsewhere in Europe, stop the hand wringing and start thinking about policies to deal with these voters' complaints. That will mean killing off a few EU sacred cows like 'freedom of movement through all member states' and 'ever closer union' but the alternative of ignoring these people will be far worse. For many years the Westminster establishment thought that they could just ignore the Scottish Nationalists and now look what has happened. That worked out well didn't it! And, it must be said that despite some ructions here and there the debate about Scotland's political future has been handled in a very civilized way, whilst history tells us that this is the exception to the normal way of things rather than the rule. It is far more usual for matters to be dealt with as per Kiev. If Ukraine is an example of the standard of diplomacy we can expect from the EUSSR then the member states had better get used to the idea of much more 'trouble to come' and yes, that can happen in Sweden, France, Germany, the UK and any EU country if the same 'bash on regardless with our wonderful policies that all you Plebs (and Russians) must learn to love' attitude continues.

Sadly, there is nothing in the workings of the EUSSR to date that gives me any hope that they have any ability to listen to the people at all. I hope and expect that the UK will be able to leave this ghastly EU mess shortly and I pray that against my expectations, the politicians of Europe including the Commissars in Brussels and the OE Blog Team will then take due note and change their ways or there will be a few more 'Bastille days' for their successors to celebrate in the years to come.

Jesper said...

The results are what they are, responsible leaders would handle the situation - irresponsible leaders will make a mess of it. The losers have been irresponsible populists while in government, they are likely to continue being irresponsible populists while in opposition.

The danger in Sweden is the instinctive reaction of the unthinking elite. The price to be paid is sadly a weakening of democracy.

If the establishment has falling support then a healthy democracy will have a rise of anti-establishment political parties. The outcome of the election shows that there is still trust in the democratic institution of the parliament, the treatment of the anti-establishment parties in parliament either increases or decreases the trust in the parliament.

The big question for European leaders might be if the new Swedish PM will be more trustworthy and reliable than Reinfeldt. Remember the 26-2 debacle and the behaviour of Reinfeldt in that case and in other cases where UK relied on his support?

Rik said...

The anti-immigration bunch has now effectively split the Swedish political landscape. No traditional side can have a comfortable majority. Which makes in general weak governments.
Unless the 2 sides cooperate (which is an even bigger disaster PR wise, especially with available alternatives).

Jesper said...


If UK had the same immigration-policies as Sweden then UK would provide asylum for 500,000 refugees per year. Does it? Would you like to?

If not, then UK mainstream is more anti-immigrant than the so called anti-immigration party in the Swedish parliament.