August 29th, 2014
The leader of the opposition Social Democrats, Stefan Löfven, says he sees the Greens as “natural allies” and that Sweden needs a government that is not dependent on the Sweden Democrats.
When Stefan Löfven was chosen as leader of the Social Democrats in January 2012, support for the party had hit a record low. With national elections around the corner, he is hoping for a chance to form a government – but who would the Social Democrats be prepared to form alliances with?
“It depends on the election result,” Löfven tells Radio Sweden.
“We’re looking for a strong Social Democrat mandate of course, but I’ve also said that we regard the Green Party as a natural partner and we also cooperate well with the Left Party. But I can also see cooperation, at least in Parliament, with the Centre Party or the Liberals because we need to make sure that we have a strong government that is not dependent on the Sweden Democrats.”
So how will Swedes who are considering giving their vote to the Social Democrats know what kind of government they can expect and what policy areas will end up being handed over to parties that they may not sympathise with?
“I know that a lot of voters want change and they want to change the direction of Sweden. So, if they want that change, they should vote for the Social Democrats. Giving me as strong a mandate as possible will of course mean getting the strongest possible Social Democrat policies,” says Löfven.
There is no party that can receive more than 50 percent of the votes alone, not even the centre-right Alliance that is currently in government, Löfven claims. Inevitably, therefore, there will be issues that they need to negotiate in Parliament.
Löfven also claims that Swedish society is weaker today because of the policies introduced under the current government.
“Unemployment is higher, school results are dropping and the welfare system is far from good enough,” Löfven says. “They believe in tax reductions as a tool for creating new jobs and that has proven to be wrong. There is greater inequality now.”
However, the Social Democrat leader concedes that the government has allocated more resources to research and that is a good thing, he says.
Löfven promises the Social Democrats will not increase taxes for “ordinary people”, but high-earners will see an increase in income tax under a Social Democrat government, which has also vowed to remove the restaurant tax because it is “inefficient”.
Before taking over leadership of the Social Democrats, Löfven built a career as leader of IF Metall, one of Sweden’s most powerful unions. He was the first union boss ever to become leader of the Social Democrats, a party that has been around for 124 years. To industry workers who today worry about their futures, Löfven says:
“We can and we will have a strong industry in Sweden in the future, too…We know that climate change makes it crucial for us to develop new technologies that can help save the environment and that is one thing we can develop in Sweden and sell both here and abroad.”
Politicians, industry, trade unions and researchers must cooperate to achieve this, Löfven adds.
The Social Democrats pride themselves on promoting international solidarity and Löfven envisages a stronger position for Sweden on the international arena, not least in the United Nations. He supports Sweden’s candidacy for the security council and says Sweden should be more active in disarmament efforts.
However, the Social Democrats oppose Nato membership. “We want to stay out of these alliances but improve cooperations with Nato and particularly with other Nordic nations,” says Löfven.
Over the summer, Löfven posted a comment on his Facebook page calling for a resolution to the conflict between Hamas and Israel. The post provoked fierce reactions and anti-Semitic comments. Finally, Löfven’s staff removed the post because it took up too much resources, they said, to moderate the discussion. Löfven tells Radio Sweden that he was prepared for a discussion, because there are strong opinions on the issue, but that he had not “anticipated the hatred”.
“That surprised me a lot. If we cannot have this kind of discussion in Sweden in a better way, then how can we expect the countries over there that have the problems, to act and behave in a good way. We have to address this. We want to have the discussion here in Sweden, but not in that way. If we are to do something about bringing about peace, then we have to be better in our own country,” says Löfven.