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Sweden is ‘in the process of dismantling democracy’: ex-Social Democrat head

Sweden's new ambassador to Iceland has caused a stir, after warning that Sweden is "in the process of dismantling democracy" and could be on a slippery slope towards technocracy or a dictatorship.

Sweden is 'in the process of dismantling democracy': ex-Social Democrat head
Håkan Juholt in Reykjavik. Photo: Magnus Hjalmarson Neideman/SvD/TT

Håkan Juholt, a former leader of the centre-left Social Democrat party and ambassador to Iceland since September, made the comments in an interview with the Svenska Dagbladet newspaper.

“How old is your son? Four?” he asks the reporter.

“When he is old he won't be living in a democracy but in a technocracy, or a dictatorship. It's sad as hell. I am sorry to say it, but I am 100 percent sure. We are in the process of dismantling democracy.”

Later in the interview, he says: “I don't think the threat is a dictatorship with tanks rolling on Sergel's Square (a well-known square in central Stockholm), but an expert rule where we do not let the citizens' values govern the country. Democracy is slipping through our fingers. Fewer people want to be elected, the parties are toning down their ideology. Sure, I see a risk that it may become a dictatorship in the long run.”


Håkan Juholt in Iceland. Photo: Magnus Hjalmarson Neideman/SvD/TT

Juholt did not elaborate on the comments, which have sparked criticism in Sweden.

“It's remarkable. It is the role of ambassadors, and the role of the government, to deliver an accurate image of our country and promote our country in the world,” Culture and Democracy Minister Alice Bah Kuhnke told the TT newswire, but said it was up to the Foreign Minister to comment further.

Margot Wallström responded she would not “argue with one of my ambassadors” in public.

“He will probably have to explain his thoughts himself,” she said, speaking to TT at a meeting of EU foreign ministers in Luxembourg.

“He will probably also soon learn, I would think, what it means to be an ambassador.”

Criticism has come from both sides of the political aisle. Karin Enström, foreign politics spokesperson of the conservative Moderate party, the largest opposition party in parliament, told TT:

“As ambassador and thus Sweden's top representative in Iceland, Håkan Juholt demonstrates a strange attitude towards the country he is supposed to represent.”

Juholt took over as party leader of the Social Democrats in 2011 after a devastating election loss the year before. Known as outspoken and jovial among his fans, a bumbling fool among his critics, he was ousted after less than a year and stepped down on January 21st 2012, following questions over the housing allowance for an overnight Stockholm apartment he stayed in at the time with his girlfriend.

MIGRATION

Sweden Democrats: ‘new census will require checks on flats and houses’

A senior Sweden Democrat has said that the coming census – Sweden's first for more than 30 years – will require inspectors visiting flats and houses to make sure everyone is counted.

Sweden Democrats: 'new census will require checks on flats and houses'

Richard Jomshof, chair of the Swedish parliament’s Justice Committee, has said that the approach taken back in 1990, when Sweden carried out a census by sending questionnaires out to every address in the country, was not suited to today’s Sweden. 

“The problem today is that we have an extremely large number of people living here illegally, so it’s not good enough to just send out questionnaires, but will instead need an investigatory body which would, in some areas, knock on doors looking for people.” 

“You can have any number of people registered as living at some addresses,” he added. “It’s a very different Sweden today from what we had in 1990.” 

Sweden’s three governing parties agreed to hold a new census as part of the Tidö Agreement they made with the far-right Sweden Sweden Democrats. 

In the agreement the parties agreed that “work shall be carried out to prepare a large-scale national census”.  

The work would start with an individual being given a “myndighetsöverskridande uppdrag“, a charge which will give them power over several government agencies, to prepare how to carry out such a census. 

The agreement also calls for changes to make it “easier to trace afterwards who has been registered in a certain apartment or property in order to prosecute civil registration offences.”

The government in the budget announced in November earmarked 500m kronor over the next three years for preparing the census.

Finance Minister Elisabeth Svantesson told newspaper Dagens Nyheter in a written comment that she agreed that checks were needed, and that part of this budget would go towards “targeted checks in areas where there is considered to be a significant risk of incorrect registration in the population register”.

Jomshof said that he didn’t think people’s privacy rights would be at risk from having inspectors knocking on their doors. 

“If someone knocks on my door and wonders who lives there and I’ve got my hands clean, I have absolutely no problem with it,” he said. “This is about our entire welfare society. But of course, this has to be done in the proper way.” 

As well as visiting addresses, the census is also expected to involve a check on all the coordination numbers (samordningsnummer) currently issued. 

“In connection with the census, coordination numbers where the holder cannot confirm their identity in a convincing way will be recalled and cancelled.” 

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