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.


Sweden’s parliament to end 200 years of non-alignment with Nato vote

Sweden's parliament is set to vote on Wednesday to end 200 years of neutrality by accepting Sweden's accession to the Nato defence alliance — although the country will not be able to join until parliaments in Turkey and Hungary ratify the agreement.

Sweden's parliament to end 200 years of non-alignment with Nato vote

The parliament began debating the bill at 9am on Wednesday and the vote is scheduled to take place in the afternoon, with a deadline of 4pm. 

“This is a historic but also a necessary decision to take,” Aron Emilsson, the Sweden Democrat chair of the parliament’s Committee on Defence, said at the start of the debate. “We are leaving 200 years of non-alignment behind us.” 

Six of the country’s eight parliamentary parties back joining the defence alliance, constituting an overwhelming majority of MPs. Only the Left Party and the Green Party are opposed. 

“Nothing will increase Sweden’s ability to defend itself faster than joining the defence alliance,” Emilsson said. 

MPs will vote on accepting Sweden’s accession to the alliance, and also that Sweden should sign up to the latest version of the North Atlantic Treaty which forms the legal basis of the alliance. 

Joining Nato will also require changes to two Swedish laws, the Military Operational Support Act, which governs military cooperation between Sweden and Finland, and the Immunities and Privileges Act, which governs diplomatic immunity. 

“The amendments to the law aim partly to make it easier for Sweden to request support from Nato in the form of military forces, and partly to give Nato, the national representatives and the international staff the immunity and privileges required under the agreement,” the parliament’s foreign affairs committee wrote when submitting the law to parliament.  

Sweden will not actually become a member until all 30 Nato member states have ratified its accession agreement, which so far only 28 have done, with Hungary and Turkey still holding out.

Hungary’s parliament is set to ratify Finland’s membership of Nato next Monday, Nato Secretary General Jens Stoltenberg said at a press conference in Brussels on Tuesday, but not that of Sweden. 

The news came after Turkey’s President Recep Tayyip Erdoğan last week instructed his parliament to approve Finland’s membership, while saying that a vote on Sweden’s would not take place until the country had extradited some of the people on Turkey’s list of wanted people living in Sweden. 

“There is no reason not to push ahead with both countries at the same time and that’s a message I have passed to the Hungarian foreign minister,” Sweden’s foreign minister Tobias Billström told TT after the news from Hungary. “Hungary has on repeated occasions over the past year said that they intend to ratify both Finland and Sweden.”