Sunday

22nd May 2022

Burned cars fuel Swedish election debate

"What the heck are you doing?" Sweden's prime minister asked on Tuesday (14 August), after up to 100 cars had been set on fire by young, masked men in several south-western Swedish cities during the night.

Social Democrat prime minister Stefan Lofven also called for more resources for the police and tougher criminal punishment during the first big TV debate among party leaders held on Tuesday evening.

Read and decide

Join EUobserver today

Become an expert on Europe

Get instant access to all articles — and 20 years of archives. 14-day free trial.

... or subscribe as a group

The debate was organised by two of Sweden's largest newspapers, Expressen and Dagens Industri, some three weeks ahead of Sweden's general elections on 9 September.

It was transmitted live from Gothenburg, one of the cities hit hardest by the arson attacks the night before.

"The most important now is to show that society mobilises against crime. It is up to us, the politicians, the police, local authorities, companies and civil society organisations. We need to show that society is always stronger than the criminals," Lofven said.

"These people are limiting other people's freedom, and we won't tolerate it," he said.

Leader of the conservative opposition Moderate Party, Ulf Kristersson, also appealed for more resources, more police officers to be trained, and higher salaries for the forces.

"We can not just say time and again that it is unacceptable and then in practice let it happen," he said.

Two men, aged 16 and 21, were arrested on Tuesday, suspected of arson and instigating riots, most likely organising it via social media, Swedish Television SVT reported. A third was arrested at an airport in Turkey after fleeing the country, according to Swedish police.

But it is not clear who was behind Monday's attacks - only that they could not have come at a more important time in order to influence the political debate.

Jimmie Akesson, leader of the anti-migrant and EU-sceptic Sweden Democrat party did not rule out that the assistance of other EU countries' police may be needed if Swedish police fail to stop the arson attacks on cars.

"If we do not manage to solve it ourselves, we must try to find all possible solutions to stop this development," he told Swedish daily Aftonbladet.

Akesson said it is about a "society that is torn apart because of unsuccessful integration and increased segregation".

"It's an attack on society. This issue needs to be resolved in depth. This government has had four years to solve the problems. They have not succeeded in anything. It's time to replace them," he said.

In June, the Sifo polling institute found 18.5 percent support for the Sweden Democrats, but support dropped to 16.8 percent in August.

The summer's extreme heat and forest fires appears to have taken the attention away from migration issues and focus more on climate issues, and lifted the environment to become the second-most important political issue among Swedish voters, according to a Demoskop survey.

Some 23 percent of voters still consider immigration to be the most important issue, but 16 percent have now come to view the environment as the most important, ahead of healthcare at 13 percent.

The drought and forest fires ironically may help Sweden's Green Party to keep its representation in parliament, as it has grown in support over summer from four percent in June to 5.6 percent in August, according to the latest SIFO institute poll, published by Svenska Dagbladet.

The electoral threshold in Sweden is four percent.

The Sweden Democrat's deny there is a link between climate change and the extreme summer temperatures.

Their party leader came under collective attack on the topic from other party leaders in Tuesday's TV debate. "It's embarrassing to have a climate-denier as a party leader," said Centre Party leader, Annie Loof , calling Akesson a "Trump clone".

But following Monday's arson attacks on cars the political focus has swung back to where it suits the Sweden Democrats.

Opinion

'Nativism' and the upcoming Swedish and Bavarian elections

Swedes head to the polls in September in a national parliamentary election, while Bavarians vote in October in a state election. In both elections, voters' nativist sentiments may well help determine the outcome.

Opinion

Georgia, Moldova, Ukraine - the case for granting EU candidacy

Granting EU candidacy status to Georgia, Moldova and Ukraine will firmly anchor their ties with Brussels — and enable the EU to secure its place in the Black Sea region, connecting Europe to China and energy-rich Central Asia, bypassing Russia.

Opinion

The EU Parliament Covid inquiry: the questions MEPs must ask

A basic lack of transparency around the EU's vaccines procurement negotiations has prevented effective public and parliamentary scrutiny. It has also made it impossible to answer some of the key questions we put forward here.

News in Brief

  1. UK to send 'hundreds' of migrants to Rwanda each year
  2. Norwegian knife attacks were domestic dispute
  3. Sweden hits back at Turkey's 'disinformation' in Nato bid
  4. Germany's Schröder gives up one of two Russia jobs
  5. G7 countries pledge €18bn in financial aid for Ukraine
  6. Italian unions strike in protest over military aid for Ukraine
  7. Russia cuts gas supply to Finland
  8. Half of Gazprom's clients have opened rouble accounts

Stakeholders' Highlights

  1. Nordic Council of MinistersNordic delegation visits Nordic Bridges in Canada
  2. Nordic Council of MinistersClear to proceed - green shipping corridors in the Nordic Region
  3. Nordic Council of MinistersNordic ministers agree on international climate commitments
  4. UNESDA - SOFT DRINKS EUROPEEfficient waste collection schemes, closed-loop recycling and access to recycled content are crucial to transition to a circular economy in Europe
  5. UiPathNo digital future for the EU without Intelligent Automation? Online briefing Link

Latest News

  1. What Europe still needs to do to save its bees
  2. Remembering Falcone: How Italy almost became a narco-state
  3. Economic worries and Hungary on the spot Next WEEK
  4. MEPs urge sanctioning the likes of ex-chancellor Schröder
  5. MEPs call for a more forceful EU response to Kremlin gas cut
  6. Catalan leader slams Pegasus use: 'Perhaps I'm still spied on'
  7. More EU teams needed to prosecute Ukraine war crimes
  8. French EU presidency struggling on asylum reforms

Join EUobserver

Support quality EU news

Join us