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The following is a guest blog by Torbjörn Sjöström, CEO of polling institute Novus
The Swedes are a very collective people, not like for example the French demonstrating on the streets if there is something they dislike. Swedes trust the idea of democracy and the general elections. Their protest comes at the ballot when deciding on whom to vote for in the coming election.
The Swedes see the problems but soldier on with their daily lives. Trying to be a good citizen. But what has happened is that the politicians and organisations like the police and the health care services take this for granted and require more and more from the citizen. It there is a crisis in Sweden, its citizens are supposed to be able to survive for our selves a week, a rapid rise since the 24 hours that it was initially. During the pandemic Swedes were told to only to seek healthcare if case of an emergency. The Swedes complied, but the trust in politicians being able to do anything is lowering, and the voter mobility is the highest we ever seen in Sweden. At last year’s election, more than 4 % of the voters changed their mind between Friday before the election and election day on Sunday.
And the problems keep piling up, stress testing the dismantled public institutions. This can happen thanks to the Swedes not being like the French example above.
With many of the current problems caused by Russian invasion of Ukraine – and the pandemic on top of that – it is probably hopeless to gain public support if you are the ruling party. Politicians seek support with quick solutions to often complex problems. That is basically the same in every Western country, Sweden is no exception. The energy prices is out of national control and the one being the victim is the citizen at the same time that Sweden (which gains from the record high European prices both internationally and nationally) fail to compensate its citizens as fast as they gave the impression that they could.
Add to that the shooting and bombing completely out of control caused by some sort of power struggle and gang wars that keep escalating. Making it obvious that the police not only have lost control now, but have allowed it to grow to these proportions for a very long time.
During the election campaign, the Moderate Party (M) and Sweden Democrats (SD) campaigned arguing that the Social democrats were the cause of the problems and they would be much better leaders of the country. Bold statements when a lot of problems are hard to fix and most political parties in some degree could be blamed for a lot of them. The energy crisis, for instance, is one that all parties except perhaps SD have been involved in degrading the resilience, dismantling the nuclear power, and failing to build alternative energy sources fast enough.
Being a Swede what could you do? If you thought it was not good under the Social Democratic government you vote for an alternative. But that is not a carte blanche for the Swedish government. If they fail to keep good on their promise you lose trust in them.
It is hard for the government to say ‘it’s complicated’ when they now have the power over issues they said was easy when they were in opposition. A common trap most politicians fall into. But that creates an impossible situation if you gain power.
The long term solution is for the politicians to not promise what they can not keep. But that is of course a utopia we are far away from reaching – if ever.
The short term solution is to shift focus on things they can control, but the most obvious is giving back some of the profits the energy crisis is creating for the government to the people now wondering how they can pay the energy bill. Sweden have always had a energy surplus, and the soaring prices now because of an European energy crisis is an absurd situation the politicians should already have solved, not just a theoretic temporary solution that the citizens may eventually get to benefit from. There is a broad political consensus that the voter should be compensated, what they did not agree on was how, technical issues that the voter do not care about, they care about help paying their bills.