Farce continues as trade unions force the Swedish Social Democrats to dump the Greens

Just a week ago the Swedish Social Democratic Prime Minister, Stefan Löfven, lost a budget vote in parliament. The whole process was one of low farce. The budget was one his party and their Green (Environment Party) partners in government and supported by the far Left party had put forward. After the loss he announced that he would call an “extra” election as soon as it was permitted on 29th December and to be held on 22nd March 2015. He was quite belligerent and adamant that the joint budget with the Greens (the one defeated) was the very best for Sweden and that they would go to the hustings on the basis of the joint budget. The Greens were quite happy to ride his coattails for it gave them an exposure and a position at the High Table that they could never otherwise have commanded.

In the next day or two it became pretty obvious that it was the Social Democrats shift far to the left with the Greens and the Left party which effectively blocked any possible cooperation with parties further on the right. But Löfven was not prepared to give up his new found friends on the left. Even though it meant that his government was now required to administer the opposition’s alternate budget which had won in parliament until the new elections. Effectively income tax levels would continue throughout 2015 at the levels of the opposition’s budget. Even some expenditure items would have to remain static for the best part of 2015. He kept repeating the self-contradictory mantra that his party would contest the elections as a separate party but on the basis of the joint budget with the Greens. His propping up of the Greens and his obsession with the goodness of his Red/Green budget was becoming untenable.

Many voices within the Social Democrats pointed out the inconsistencies of this position but he stuck to his partnership. But the final straw came when the head of the Landsorganisation (representing the trade unions of Sweden) came out publicly  with the advice to abandon the Greens and fight the election on their own strengths – not least because any coalition agreements could only be negotiated later if they were not encumbered by the Greens and the Left party.

Dagens Nyheter(1):

Stefan Löfven should go to elections without the Green Party. So says a deeply concerned LO chairman Karl-Petter Thorwaldsson.

“Sweden is in a dangerous position, we are no longer seen as a politically stable country, we risk investment and jobs. The image of Sweden as stable, pragmatic and growth-friendly gave us investment and more jobs”, says LO’s chairman. He now sees this threatened on several fronts.

Mainly because of the parliamentary mess. But also because of the Green Party’s influence,  which he has criticized strongly several times in recent months. Among other things their requirements for nuclear decommissioning, the decision to close Bromma airport and postpone the Stockholm Bypass.

The Social Democrats ignore the trade unions at their peril. And Löfven has now been forced to back down and throw the Greens under the bus. But his contortions to keep his position today in touch with his position a week ago are also a little farcical.

Dagens Nyheter (2):

On Thursday the LO boss Karl-Petter Thorwaldsson put it plainly to DN: “Stefan Löfven should throw MP overboard and go to the polls alone”.

So on Thursday Löfven gave a number of bizarre answers. On the one hand, he had intended to do just that (dump the Greens) all the time – even though his press conference with Gustav Fridolin last week clearly showed that this cooperation was firm and fixed. “We like thecooperation we have and we have a very strong budget,” said Löfven.

Dagens Nyheter is scathing:

  • The Social Democrats are going to go to the polls alone, 
  • but together with the MP (Green Party),
  • with a budget that does not apply anymore
  • but which will anyway form the basis for future policy.

The show goes on. At least farces and pantomimes are quite suited to the festive season.

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