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Sweden Elects: Liberals face questions over Sweden Democrat links

The Local's editor Emma Löfgren explains the key events to keep an eye on in Swedish politics this week.

Sweden Elects: Liberals face questions over Sweden Democrat links
Liberal leader Johan Pehrson and Sweden Democrat leader Jimmie Åkesson at a debate on broadcaster SR before the election. Photo: Christine Olsson/TT


Here’s this week’s Sweden Elects, with the latest political talking points.

It’s starting to seem like the Swedish Liberals may have underestimated the strength of their international liberal colleagues’ reaction to the centre-right party’s decision to co-sign a bunch of governmental policies worked out together with the far-right Sweden Democrats.

There’s now talk of potentially expelling them from Renew Europe. The organisation tweeted that its president would “for the time being” not invite their leadership to its events, and that they welcomed the liberal Alde Party’s “fact-finding mission to Stockholm (…) to assess the relationship of the parties supporting the government”.

For any readers who want a crash course on European politics: the Alde Party is a transnational European political party made up of liberal parties from across Europe. Its members are part of the Renew Europe group in the European parliament.

Liberal party leader Johan Pehrson told Swedish media that he was “trying to explain” to his European colleagues that the policies also include “meaningful liberal reforms”.

When The Local spoke with the legal director of human rights group Civil Rights Defenders, he said that the government’s policies take Sweden in an illiberal direction.

“It’s not aimed at strengthening the protection of our human rights. It’s not meant to strengthen the rule of law. It’s not meant to strengthen democracy either,” he told The Local of the political programme agreed by the three government parties and the Sweden Democrats. Read the full interview, for members of The Local, here.

At The Local, we will continue to keep an extra close eye on how government policies and any new legislative proposals affect international residents living in Sweden – and we’ve had quite a few questions from readers about this. This article explains what we know so far about who will be affected by Sweden’s new immigration policy.

(I just want to say a quick thank you here to you as a member of The Local – your support lets us strengthen our coverage of these issues. If you enjoy this newsletter or The Local in general, please feel free to help us spread the word about membership)

Sweden Democrat in hot water over Anne Frank comments

In other news, Rebecka Fallenkvist, a high-profile Sweden Democrat and a presenter on the far-right party’s Riks web television channel, grabbed global headlines last week for making degrading remarks about the Jewish teenage diarist and Holocaust victim Anne Frank.

The party’s press chief called the comments “insensitive and inappropriate”, and told Swedish media that Fallenkvist would be suspended pending an internal probe.

She was instead forced to leave her role as a Riks presenter and was moved to an administrative role, working for the party’s finance department in parliament, reported Aftonbladet. The party confirmed she would help plan its “conference activities”.

Fallenkvist, if you remember, also caused a scandal on election night by declaring “helg seger” – which means “weekend victory” but sounds like and is often used in place of the Nazi salute “Hell seger” (Sieg Heil) – in an interview with pro-SD newssite Samnytt.

Power shifts in Stockholm

While Sweden as a whole handed over power from the left to the right, in the Stockholm region, the winds are turning in the other direction.

A centre-left coalition of the Social Democrats, Green Party and Centre Party is set to take over the reins of Stockholm’s regional government, with the support of the Left Party.

It’s easy to draw the conclusion that the urban areas of Sweden are turning leftwards and the rural areas rightwards (the left wing won Stockholm City too), but that may be too shallow an analysis in this particular case. Discontent had been brewing for several years.

In short: the Swedish capital region had been run by centre-right coalitions, headed by the Moderates, for 16 years, but the leadership had been facing growing criticism.

A scandal over cost overruns and operational problems at what was supposed to be Stockholm’s flagship hospital, several structural errors laid bare by the Covid crisis, and accusations of avoiding questioning by the media all led to the shift of power.

The new government of Sweden

Last but not least, the most significant political event since my last Sweden Elects newsletter is Prime Minister Ulf Kristersson’s new government being installed.

Here are the key points about everything you need to know about the new government. On the latest Sweden in Focus podcast, the Local’s team speaks more about the controversial decision to merge the Ministry for the Environment with the Ministry for Business, creating a new ministry headed by Christian Democrat leader Ebba Busch, with Liberal Romina Pourmokhtari working underneath her as Climate Minister.

Here’s a quick rundown of Sweden’s new government ministers, who represent three parties in total: the conservative Moderates and Christian Democrats and the we-promise-we’re-still-the-liberal-conscience-of-the-government Liberals. Thanks for reading and speak again next week.

Best wishes,

Sweden Elects is a weekly column by Editor Emma Löfgren looking at the big talking points and issues after the Swedish election. 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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Swedish prime minister seeks military help to crack down on gangs

Swedish Prime Minister Ulf Kristersson said in a televised speech that he would meet with the commander in chief of the military, among others, after a spate of violence that has claimed the lives of a growing number of children and bystanders.

Swedish prime minister seeks military help to crack down on gangs

Kristersson said he would meet on Friday with the national chief of police and commander in chief Micael Bydén “to see how the armed forces can help the police fight the gangs”.

The Scandinavian country has in recent years been in the grip of a bloody conflict between gangs fighting over arms and drug trafficking, which has escalated over vendettas between the gangs.


Apartment buildings and homes across the country are frequently rocked by explosions, and shootings in public places have become regular occurrences in the usually tranquil country.

“We are going to hunt down the gangs. We are going to defeat the gangs,” Kristersson said in a televised address to the nation on Thursday evening, after three people were killed in shootings and explosions overnight on Wednesday.

An 18-year-old man was shot dead at a crowded football pitch early Wednesday evening in a well-off Stockholm suburb, police said.

A second shooting took place around midnight in another Stockholm suburb, injuring two people, one of whom later died, police said, adding that three suspects had been arrested in that case.

Several hours later, an explosion near the university town of Uppsala, 70 kilometres north of Stockholm, damaged five homes and killed a woman in her mid-20s with no known connection to the gangs, according to police.

The surge in killings has shocked Swedes.

“Crime has reached unprecedented levels. The situation is very serious in Uppsala, and in the rest of the country,” Uppsala police official Catarina Bowall told reporters.

According to a tally by Swedish public television SVT, 12 people have been killed in shootings and explosions in September, the deadliest month in terms of fatal shootings in the past four years.

One of the dead was a 13-year-old boy whose body was found dumped in a wooded area. Prosecutors said they believed he was a victim of the gang violence.

“An increasing number of children and completely innocent people are affected by this extreme violence,” Kristersson said.

“Sweden has never seen anything like this. No other country in Europe is seeing anything like this.”

He said serious organised crime had risen over the past decade “due to naiveté”.

“An irresponsible immigration policy and failed integration led us here,” the conservative leader said.

“Swedish legislation was not designed for gang wars and child soldiers. But we’re changing that now,” he said.

He noted new legislation entering into force in the coming days enabling police to wiretap gangs, as well as plans for body searches in some areas, harsher sentences for repeat offenders and double sentences for certain crimes.

“We’ll put them on trial. If they are Swedish citizens they will be locked away with long prison sentences, and if they are foreigners they will be deported,” he said.

“We are going to deport foreigners who move in criminal gang circles even if they haven’t committed a crime,” he said.

He said Sweden also needed to introduce surveillance cameras in public places and build special prisons for teenage criminals.

In 2022, Sweden registered 391 shootings, 62 of which were fatal.