Finally, Swedish opposition acquires a backbone and returns to its job

Last December the Swedish, opposition, Moderate-party-led, right-of-centre Alliance, abdicated abjectly from its responsibilities. They signed a so-called December Agreement (DÖ- decemberöverenskommelsen) where they agreed not to oppose, en masse, any critical budget proposition put forward by the minority Socialist/Green government (with the support of the communistic Left party). They agreed to do this, believe it or not, not just for a year or two, but for two whole terms of government (presumably because they thought a quid pro quo could favour them if they were in a minority government after the next election). No doubt they felt it was the only way to get away from the disruptive and looming threat of the right-wing, anti-immigration, Swedish Democrats who hold the balance of power in parliament. The pink/green government, desperate to stay in power, also cravenly agreed to this, even though their budget for 2015 had been defeated and the previous governments budget has applied for 2015. It is ludicrous that they have been in power for a year implementing the previous government’s budget.

At the time, I thought it was a rather despicable Agreement made out of fear and not out of any conviction of what was right. It was an agreement totally lacking in courage and essentially abdicated the role of providing a serious opposition to balance the profligacies of a pink/green (+red support) government. Especially when the weak Socialist leadership was being forced to accept rather childish and incompetent ministers from the Green party. The Greens are sometimes so far to the left of the communists that they approach eco-fascism. The Moderate party had a new party leader then in Anna Kinberg-Batra and she was too inexperienced at the time. She has a reputation for being tough but this toughness has not yet been on display.

DÖ ripped

In any case, the Christian Democrats, a tiny little party but part of the Alliance, have just had their annual congress. (They too have a new party leader, Ebba Busch Thor, but she is extremely lightweight). The party congress rejected the party leadership’s lukewarm recommendation to ratify the Agreement, and voted against it. (I can’t help but feel that Busch Thor and the party leadership actually wanted the rejection but were too scared to openly say so). The consequence is that the December Agreement now stands annulled.

All the Alliance parties have confirmed the annulment. The government parties (socialists, greens and reds) are all moaning about the other parties being unreliable and that they are not to be trusted ever again. The Left communists are most upset at the risk now that the Socialists may abandon them and move to the centre parties to try and cobble together enough support to run a minority government. Probably the best bet for the Social Democrats is to abandon the Greens and The Left and move sharply towards the centre. The Swedish Democrats, who are riding very high in the polls, want a new election.

The government’s budget proposition is waiting to be approved in Parliament but this I think poses no great threat. The other parties have not tabled a joint budget and their individual budget motions will fall. Without a joint budget, which the opposition would have all supported, the Swedish Democrats do not have any opposing motion that they can join to overthrow the government. The Alliance have also said that they have no intention of bringing a no-confidence motion against the government, which the Swedish Democrats then could have taken advantage of.  The Alliance parties don’t want a new election just yet (they have no viable election strategy) and will merely abstain if the SD bring a no-confidence motion themselves.

A crunch could come next autumn in 2016 and even in 2017,  if the Alliance choose to present a joint budget proposition. So we are stuck with the pink/green/red budget for at least a year. It is not a very impressive budget. About 70% of the population will be worse off.

The issue for the Alliance parties will be to develop some kind of a strategy for winning the 2018 election. At the moment they have none. They have to find a way to get back their supporters who have switched their support to the Swedish Democrats. The only strategy visible so far has been to moralise with cliches. Trying to take a high moral position with an electorate already fed-up with sanctimonious preachers has not been very effective.

I could tell them how to do it – not that anybody will listen to me. The first step would be to show some courage. The second would be to start standing up for their own values and not just massaging them – out of fear – to fit perceptions of “political correctness”. (Courage is when fear is made subservient to purpose, but all the Alliance parties have been displaying an abject cowardice in making their actions subservient to fear).

At least we may now finally have an opposition with some backbone – but even that is not entirely certain. But it is an opportunity for Kinberg-Batra to show her mettle.

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