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How Sweden’s government deal has hit the popularity of political parties

Sweden finally got a new government this week after 131 days of deadlock. In order to get there, several parties had to compromise, and a four-party deal was struck between former rivals. So how has the new agreement affected the popularity of the different political parties?

How Sweden's government deal has hit the popularity of political parties
Swedish prime minister Stefan Löfven (centre) presents his new government. Photo: Anders Wiklund / TT
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Several of the political parties have seen significant changes in their membership figures after what's been called the January Deal (januariavtalet) in Sweden.

The deal paved the way for a Social Democrat-Green Party government with passive support from the Centre and Liberal Party in exchange for agreement on several policy points, such as changes to rental regulations, tax changes, and the introduction of language and civics tests for would-be citizens.

The biggest intake of new members have been reported by the Christian Democrats and Moderate Party, whose leaders described the deal as “absurd” and “an unholy alliance” after their two former allies agreed to allow a Social Democrat-led government.

READ ALSO: Who's who in Sweden's new government?

Who's who in Sweden's new government?
Photo: Jonas Ekströmer/TT

The centre-right Alliance (made up of the Moderates, Christian Democrats, Centre Party and Liberals) broke down after both they and the centre-left bloc failed to reach a majority. The Centre and Liberals refused to support a government that relied on support from the far-right Sweden Democrats, while the other two Alliance parties were prepared to accept this support.

Christian Democrat party secretary Peter Kullgren said his party had received 1,500 new members since the deal was first announced on January 11th.

“I think it's down to the fact that we as a party, and not least our party leader [Ebba Busch-Thor], have stood firm in the government negotiations and kept to the same line before and after the election,” Kullgren told the TT news agency.

The Moderate Party meanwhile reported an increase of around 1,000 new members.

The Left Party, who were not a part of the deal but reluctantly agreed to offer 'passive support', also appear to have gained.

According to their party secretary, membership figures are at their highest level since the early 1960s, with a boost of nearly 600 new members in the past two weeks.

The final party not included in the deal, the far-right Sweden Democrats, said they had received around 150 new members during the same period.

As for the parties included in the deal, neither the Green Party (who are part of the government with the Social Democrats) nor the Liberal Party shared their membership figures for 2019.

The Social Democrats reported an increase of members throughout January without giving a figure, while the Centre Party said they had received around 100 membership applications but had also seen some members cancel their membership.

READ ALSO: What does Sweden's government deal mean for internationals in Sweden?

What does Sweden's government deal mean for internationals in Sweden?
Photo: Anders Wiklund/TT

Opinion polls however have remained mostly stable despite the turbulence during the ongoing negotiations. 

A survey carried out by Ipsos for Dagens Nyheter showed only minor changes since before the election, but slight improvements in poll ratings for the Social Democrats and losses for the Moderate Party.

The Social Democrats were polling at 30 percent, according to the survey, a two point decrease from the previous month but still above the election result of 28.3 percent, which was its lowest share of the vote in over a century.

Meanwhile, support for the Moderates remained at 18 percent, the same level as December, while the Sweden Democrats also remained stable at 18 percent. In the election, they received around 20 and 17 percent of the vote respectively.

The Christian Democrats were down at seven percent, a slight decrease from December, while the Centre Party and Liberals saw slight increases to eight and five percent respectively, close to the support they received in the election. The Left Party remained at the same level as in December, at eight percent.

However, it is still too early to be able to predict what the long-term consequences of the January Deal and new government will be, both for the political parties and for Swedish society in general.

Member comments

  1. “… the far-right Sweden Democrats, said they had received around 150 new members during the same period.” I ask, then, who are the “far left” party or parties?

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For members


Sweden Elects: I’ve got election pork coming out my ears this week

The Local's editor Emma Löfgren rounds up this week's key talking points of the Swedish election campaign.

Sweden Elects: I've got election pork coming out my ears this week

There’s an old Swedish Word of the Day in The Local’s archives: valfläsk (literally “election pork”, or pork barrel politics).

This week, there’s been enough of it to feed a Swedish town large enough for both a Biltema and a Dressmann store and still have half the pig left!

You could say it started the week before last, when the Social Democrats’ Immigration Minister Anders Ygeman floated a test balloon loaded with a 50-percent cap on non-Nordic residents in troubled neighbourhoods (it went down among the other parties like it was made out of lead).

Then last week, the Liberals threw their hat in the ring by proposing mandatory language assessments for two-year-olds who don’t attend preschool, and then make preschool mandatory for the toddlers whose Swedish isn’t deemed good enough. This, they said, was meant to help integration in areas where bilingual children don’t speak Swedish at home.

“Studies show that early preschool benefits children whose mothers are low-educated and whose parents are born abroad,” their manifesto read.

Liberal leader Johan Pehrson’s statement that in the most extreme cases – where parents clearly refuse to let their children learn Swedish – led to a social media storm that conjured up images of crying toddlers being taken into care for failing to distinguish between en and ett when quizzed.

For any parents of multilingual children (who know better than most how language works in early childhood – I’m raising a multilingual baby myself, but I’ve only just started so if you have any tips, do let me know!), I should stress that the proposal is less extreme than how it was first presented.

This is typical for valfläsk, by the way. Take something that’s perfectly obvious and hard to argue against (of course mixed neighbourhoods and children being encouraged to learn languages are generally good things) but dial it up a notch, insert something immigration-related, promise to get tough on whatever it is you want to get tough on, and propose either something that already exists or would be near-impossible to implement.

Then the Stockholm branch of the conservative Moderates proposed that entire school classes in vulnerable areas should be screened for ADHD through optional rapid tests, in order to increase the comparably lower rate of medication among foreign-born children and prevent them from falling into a life of crime.

“Detached from reality,” said their Social Democrat rival and pointed out that the partly Moderate-run region was planning to cut the number of psychiatric care clinics for young people.

The Christian Democrats, never ones to be outdone, wanted to chemically castrate sex offenders, give police access to healthcare biobanks, and let police take DNA samples from people stopped in internal border checks.

But while many of the election pledges that get tossed around this close to the election (less than a month to go, now!) tend to range from the radical to the ridiculous and are unlikely to ever be implemented, they’re still worth paying attention to. They give us an indication of the direction the parties want to take, and could well reappear in a more watered-down format later on during the governmental cycle.

They may also become part of post-election negotiations, where even small parties hold key cards as the larger parties fight to cobble together viable government coalitions.

They also say something about Sweden and the direction of the political sphere as a whole, where the parties are currently racing to outdo each other on who can be toughest on immigration and law and order.

The Local’s reporter Becky Waterton has gone through all the parties’ election pledges to see how they specifically would affect foreign residents in Sweden – in case you’ve missed her article, click here to read it.

Also in the world of Swedish politics, a new poll by SVT and Novus has the Moderates and the Sweden Democrats neck and neck, Moderate leader Ulf Kristersson promised lower taxes in his summer speech and Prime Minister Magdalena Andersson tougher sentences on gang criminals in hers, and Sweden Democrat leader Jimmie Åkesson suggested changing the name of the Swedish Prison and Probation Service (Kriminalvården) to the Penal Office (Straffverket).

Sweden Elects is a new 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 plus several extra features as a newsletter in their email inbox each week. Just click on this “newsletters” option or visit the menu bar.