We ‘kept out’ right-wing extremism with election outcome: Swedish PM

Prime Minister Stefan Löfven praised January’s cross-aisle government agreement in a speech given at a conference of the Social Democratic party in Örebro.

We 'kept out' right-wing extremism with election outcome: Swedish PM
Prime Minister Stefan Löfven speaks at the Social Dmocrat conference in Örebro. Photo: Filip Erlind/TT

Löfven cited keeping “right-wing extremism”, in the form of the populist Sweden Democrats, away from power as he spoke about the agreement taken with centre-right parties in the January agreement.

“We kept right-wing extremism away from power,” he said.

The PM also said that the Social Democrats would be able to deliver promises made during the election campaign, with the new government now in place.

He promised billions of kronor for healthcare, schools and housing, more spending on the elderly and initiatives for families with children.

But Löfven also framed the eventual election outcome, in which his party and the Green Party entered coalition with the de facto support of the Centre, Liberal and Left parties, as “an important ideological victory”.

“But most important of all is to see this as a basis – the beginning of an ambitious agenda for reform,” he added.

The January agreement between the Social Democratic Party, Greens, Liberals and Centre Party prevented the anti-immigration Sweden Democrats from gaining influence by supporting a potential government led by the liberal conservative Moderate party.

Löfven used his conference speech to warn against right-wing extremists who target dissatisfied voters by directing their frustration towards minorities.

“And they are ready to ally themselves with the part of the right (wing) which represents society’s wealthiest,” he said.

“They have succeeded before. But friends, they should never succeed again,” he continued.

The PM also spent much of his speech focusing on education, which he said could help to even out class differences in society.

He also said he wanted to make Sweden’s school system one of the world’s best in terms of equality and performance.

In 2019's first debate between party leaders in January, Social Democrat leader Löfven stated that far-right nationalist forces are growing stronger across Europe.

“Sweden has chosen another path,” he emphasized.

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

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Sweden still ‘a land of possibilities’ for foreigners says finance minister

Sweden's finance minister, Elisabeth Svantesson, has defended her government's decision to make cuts to some services used by foreigners, saying the country remains a 'land of possibilities' for newcomers.

Sweden still 'a land of possibilities' for foreigners says finance minister

Asked by The Local at an event in Malmö whether her government was hostile to foreigners, following cuts to funding for organisations like ABF, which among other thing teach Swedish to people who can’t study SFI, and also to the ethnic associations research shows can be an important tool for integration, Svantesson said Sweden still offered a lot to immigrants. 

“If you put it all together, we do an enormous amount to make sure that people from other countries can come in [to society], she said. “We take action upon action, and I’d argue that Sweden is a ‘land of possibilities’ for those from another country.”

She conceded, however, that the budget was being cut for folkbildning, the term for popular adult education organisations like ABF – which is linked to the Social Democrat party – or Medborgarskolan, which is linked to the Moderate Party. 

“Yes, the money for folkbildning is reduced, absolutely,” she said. “But there’s still a lot of money left.” 

She then ran through the ways in which Sweden was in fact very generous to foreigners newly arrived in the country. 

“You get free Swedish lessons at SFI [Swedish for Immigrants], and if you’re an asylum seeker, you can even get paid to study Swedish. We have the etableringsjobb [introductory jobs], which together with the unions and employers we are very keen to get going as soon as possible.” 

She added that education in Sweden was completely free, with some even paid to study.

So to argue that her government was “hostile to foreigners”, she concluded, was way off the mark. 

“I feel very confident, and secure and certain that anyone who truly wants to get on can go extremely far in Sweden.”  

The event, an informal meeting with the Moderate Party in Malmö on Wednesday evening, rounded off a day in which Svantesson had toured Skåne together with Sweden’s Prime Minister, Ulf Kristersson, vising an old people’s home in Åhus and a school in Broby. 

The intention was clearly to show that the government was concerned about the ability of municipalities and regional governments to fund education and healthcare, even though both regions and municipalities have complained that the extra funding they received in the budget last week is insufficient to cover the impact of inflation. 

The meeting, which was intended as “an open audience” with the two politicians, was attended by activists from the Extinction Rebellion protest group.

One after another, they interrupted the proceedings with statements about the increased emissions resulting from decisions taken by the government, several then sang a song, with each in turn dragged away by plain clothes police officers. 

An activist from Extinction Rebellion is dragged off the stage by security guards after interrupting the proceedings. Photo: Johan Nilsson/TT