Week 52: Hero – Stefan Lofven

by George_East on December 28, 2014

Swedish _HeroThis week’s Hero of the Week Award and the last of 2014 goes to Swedish Prime Minister Stefan Lofven for doing his  bit towards stopping the rise of European fascism

In the Swedish elections of 14 September 2014, the centre left Social Democratic Party squeaked into first place with a paltry 31% of the vote, edging out the then sitting Prime Minister’s centre right Moderates, who achieved a dismal 23.3% of the vote.

Although this was a (very) modest victory for the centre left (with the Greens getting 7.3% and the Left Party 5.6%) it was a depressing result for European social democrats for three reasons.  Firstly the Social Democrats had led in the polls by a country mile at one point with polls putting them in the mid to high 30%.  Secondly, because the Social Democrats had once been the most successful political party in Europe, dominating Swedish politics for 70 years and being responsible for creating the Nordic model that many in the UK have looked to enviously for decades.

But thirdly and most depressingly of all the far right Sweden Democrats (Sweden’s BNP) leapt from sixth to third place with 12.86% of the vote and nearly 50 seats.  This is a party that didn’t even have parliamentary representation until 2010.

The particular difficulty thrown up by the election was that the Social Democratic Party was unable to form a majority coalition with like-minded parties.  Fans of Borgen (set in neighbouring Denmark) will know how difficult coalition negotiations can be in Scandinavian countries and how elusive the office of statsminister can be.  The Greens (the Social Democrats’ natural coalition partners) had 25 seats taking the total with the Social Democrats to 138.  Even if the 21 Left Party’s MPs were added (and a formal coalition with them had been ruled out – as in Germany with Die Linke there is a probably self-defeating reluctance of the mainstream centre left party in doing a deal with parties on the socialist left) this only brought the total number up to 159.  175 is needed for a majority in the Swedish parliament.

Although Lofven was sworn in as Prime Minister on 2 October 2014, earlier this month the new government’s budget was defeated.  This meant that it looked like Sweden was heading for fresh elections in the spring.  The polls suggest that if these new elections are held the Sweden Democrats are likely to surge ahead even further – the far right are on the march, a scary prospect for all, given the Front National current lead in the polls in France and the continued success of the far right in Hungary and Greece.  The mainstream-isation of the fascism once again reminding us of how contingent liberal democracy is.

Fortunately and to his credit Lofven announced on Friday that a deal had been done with the centrist Alliance Party, who are prepared to back the new government’s budget on a fresh vote, thus avoiding the need for elections.  Of course this may not symie the growth of the far right but it does give a progressive government (one of a tiny number in Europe) a chance to succeed and hopefully win the support of those disillusioned voters tempted by the far right.    For that Stefan Lofven deserves our hero of the week award.

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