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POLITICS

Swedish election: politicians, where’s the vision?

A bigger vision for Sweden is missing from the election campaign, writes Swedish tech star and startup founder Johan Attby in this opinion piece.

Swedish election: politicians, where's the vision?
Election campaign posters in Sweden. Photo: Tomas Oneborg/SvD/TT

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With less than a week left until the election, the streets of Stockholm are peppered with party billboards and their leaders appear on every possible TV and radio show. Their messages, which are repeated over and over again, make me feel… nothing.

There's so much monotony in this election cycle. It's as if they're playing the same tape as previous years, with a slightly refined tune and – in the spirit of the American election – a dumbed-down message.

It's the longer or shorter version of this, less or more of that. Crime sentences, taxes, immigration, police force, teachers, nurses, military, CO2 emissions: the list goes on and on.

What is totally lacking is a bigger vision for Sweden, an understanding of the things that will really impact the country, and our citizens, in this modern world.  

For all the words said, there are plenty of topics that remain unmentioned. There has been no talk of the rise of Artificial Intelligence, which is set to revolutionize society and is already impacting people's lives. Or how autonomous vehicles will completely change transportation, and how soon there might not be a human in the driving seat next to you in traffic.

In fact, there has been no focus on the growth of automation – which is making millions of people redundant, while likely creating new jobs in industries that are yet to even exist. This will mean many have to retrain to adapt to the new industrial revolution.

READ ALSO: Follow The Local's election coverage here


Johan Attby, CEO of Swedish startup Fishbrain. Photo: Private

The rapid advances in medicine aren't being talked about either. People aren't paying enough attention to how many more of us will see our 100th birthday, and the enormous effect this will have on our pensions and healthcare. Current offerings from politicians to increase the pension age to 67, or add a few thousand nurses, is nothing more than a band-aid on a far more pressing issue.

There is also little talk about how small and medium-sized companies are now generating the majority of jobs, yet labour laws aimed at large enterprises from decades ago are making life hard for them. Tech companies such as Spotify, Klarna, and iZettle, have created shareholder value on the same scale as Ericsson, ABB, and IKEA before them, but within a much shorter time period. To keep these pioneers in Sweden, we need to solve the issues around housing and taxation on stock options so they can attract the best talent in the world to move here.

There is not enough focus on how we can make Sweden more attractive so that people want to move and work here. Many industries are screaming for talented people to hire, but instead the discussion is all about how we can cut back on who we allow in.

The counter-argument often made is, “Why should we focus on these issues in the short-term, when it will be decades before such policy decisions affect us?” Nothing could be more wrong.

With the exponential advances in technology, changes are happening at an accelerated pace. If we don't act now, we will lose out on all manner of opportunities, while more visionary leaders in other countries take advantage and beat us in the global flat market of today.

This is not to suggest that we shouldn't also make time to discuss the issues already being talked about. But we surely must have time in our wall-to-wall TV and radio coverage for forward-thinking, vision, and conversations about the bigger picture?

Come on politicians, you can do much better than this!

Opinion piece written for The Local by Johan Attby, CEO of Fishbrain, the world's largest community-based fishing app.

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SWEDEN ELECTS

Sweden Elects: How powerful are the Sweden Democrats now?

The Local's editor Emma Löfgren explains how Sweden's parliamentary committees work – and the role the Sweden Democrats will play in them.

Sweden Elects: How powerful are the Sweden Democrats now?

Hej,

The speaker of parliament has given Ulf Kristersson, leader of the conservative Moderates and the likely next prime minister of Sweden, October 12th as a deadline to conclude his government negotiations.

If Kristersson comes up with a viable proposal for a ruling coalition, the speaker will put that proposal to parliament within four days. Chances are Sweden will have its new right-wing government by mid-October.

What will that government look like? Most likely, it will consist of at least the Moderates and the Christian Democrats. Rumours have it Kristersson is hoping to bring the Liberals into the governmental fold, and it is unlikely that the far-right Sweden Democrats will be part of the government.

But anyone who thinks the latter means they will be left on the sidelines is mistaken. They will have demanded significant concessions in order to support Kristersson’s government (and especially to make way for the Liberals) from parliament, and judging from recent news, they got them.

In a joint press release last week, the right wing – the Moderates, Christian Democrats, Liberals and Sweden Democrats – said they had reached a deal on how to share responsibility for their parliamentary committees.

There are 15 committees in the Swedish parliament, seats on which are held by members of parliament, with larger parties getting more seats as well as more high-ranking roles such as chair and deputy chair.

The right wing is after this election entitled to 16 chair and deputy chair roles, and the Sweden Democrats will get half of those, the parties agreed. The key thing that many political pundits were keeping an eye on was which committees, as that tells us a lot about how far they got in their negotiations with the other right-wing parties. The answer: far.

The Sweden Democrats will get to chair the Justice, Foreign Affairs, Labour Market, and Industry and Trade Committees – all heavyweight committees. 

Their most high-profile appointment is Richard Jomshof, one of the most senior Sweden Democrats who in the run-up to the election gave an anti-Islam speech (not the first time). He will chair the Justice Committee.

The Moderates will chair the Finance and Social Insurance Committees (plus the EU Committee), the Christian Democrats will chair the Health and Welfare Committee, and the Liberals will chair the Education Committee.

On the other side, the left-wing parties will get to chair the Defence, Taxation, Constitution, Civil Affairs, Transport and Communications, Environment and Agriculture, and Cultural Affairs Committees.

So what exactly do the parliamentary committees do, and how much influence will the Sweden Democrats now have over legislation?

The votes of every member of the committees count equally (there are at least 15 members on every committee, representing the various parties from left to right), and the chair gets the final vote if there’s a tie. He or she also has influence over the committee’s agenda and over how meetings are directed, with the position also bringing prestige.

All government bills and proposals by members of parliament first go through one of the committees before they can be put to the main chamber for a vote. The committee adopts a position on the proposal and although the final decision rests with the 349 members of the main chamber, they usually vote for the committee’s position since the make-up of their members represent the parties in parliament.

Although chair positions give them a procedural advantage, the Sweden Democrats won’t have unlimited power over their committees, since as I said, the other parties have seats too and their votes count equally.

The main benefit for the Sweden Democrats is rather the soft power it gives them. The chair is the face of the parliamentary committee, and these senior roles will force the other parties to take them seriously.

Another aspect to bear in mind is that they’ll have enough seats on each committee that they will have a key kingmaker role where they can side either with the government or the opposition – giving them fairly significant negotiating power when it comes to future legislation.

In other news, the Swedish parliament last week re-elected the popular Andreas Norlén as speaker, it’s been taking much longer than usual to get a work permit (here’s why) and foreigners are calling for the Migration Agency to issue special visas to allow those affected by renewal delays to leave Sweden and return, the Nord Stream 2 pipeline has stopped leaking gas, and households in Sweden are starting to feel the economic squeeze.

In the latest episode of our Sweden in Focus podcast, host Paul O’Mahony is joined by Handelsbanken chief economist Johan Löf, as well as The Local’s Becky Waterton, Richard Orange and James Savage.

Many thanks to everyone who’s got in touch lately with your thoughts and feedback about Sweden Elects. I’m happy it’s useful to you. If you have any questions about Swedish politics, you’re always welcome to get in touch.

Best wishes,

Emma

Sweden Elects is a weekly column by Editor Emma Löfgren looking at the big talking points and issues in the Swedish election race. Members of The Local Sweden can sign up to receive the column as a newsletter in their email inbox each week. Just click on this “newsletters” option or visit the menu bar.

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