Sweden: red wave (with black shadows)

The Social Democratic success in last Sunday general elections in Sweden had a main actor, Stefan Löfven, that in little more than two years has overturned the new pro-market stance of his party and doing so has brought it to being again a majority group: the challenge had a positive outcome thanks to pragmatism and firmness in the issues relating to the rights of workers.

Photo Aldo CiummoPhoto Aldo Ciummo

The affinity between the leftist trend represented by this politician born in Stockholm in 1957 and his biography stands out: he was the metalworkers' union leader and, since 2012, of the Swedish Social Democratic Party, in which he had never held public positions or top roles of leadership before.

When he was only eighteen, Stefan Löfven began working as a welder in Örnsköldsvik: last Sunday instead he has put the Swedish Social Democrats at the Swedish political landscape’s centre, with more than thirty per cent of the votes, decisive in an alliance including the Greens (almost seven per percent) and the far left (six per cent). The Feminist Initiative has gathered three per cent, a figure however showing a high level of attention to gender issues, especially in a country at the forefront of equal rights issues.

The voters have clearly rejected cuts in funding for welfare, integration and cooperation, thus placing the Moderates led by Fredrik Reinfeldt back in second place with twenty-three percent (the votes of its allies - six per cent for the Centre, five and a half per cent for the Liberals, half past four per cent for the Christian Democrats - were not enough to prevail). The extreme right of Jimmie Åkesson, described by many as racist and certainly very far from the Swedish political tradition, has taken votes away from traditional conservatives, grabbing more than twelve percentage points, but it still remains isolated in Parliament, where even the right-wing parties always refused to cooperate with the "Sverigedemokraterna".

Probably the Centre and the Liberals will instead join the Social Democratic-led government, although today the biggest news for Sweden it is the Greens’ debut in the executive, for the first time in the course of thirty-three years of environmentalist’s existence as an organized political force (and as the Party led by Gustav Fridolin had already made possible to guess with its success in European consultations).

These days’ leading actor, however, is the welder that was not even a member of the Parliament when he was elected leader of the Social Democrats: Svenska Dagbladet, a moderate newspaper, once described him as a person of "low profile, high integrity and good judgment." The fact that Löfven has led the IF Metall, an important union, suggests that the party will rediscover its ties with the Swedish Confederation of Labour Unions (Landsorganisationen, LO). The newspaper Dagens Nyether two years ago wrote that Sweden found in Löfven one thing the country was looking for: a political Left.

Mona Sahlin’s leadership in the Social Democratic party neglected the relationship with the workers alienating many voters, after decades in which Center-Right governments were just exceptions. The year 2010 was a trauma for the Social Democrats, due to the reconfirmation in power of the Center-Right alliance organized around Fredrik Reinfeldt, leader of the Moderate, allied with Centre Party, Christian Democrats and Liberals.

Stefan Löfven’s strenght was the choice to bring the Social Democrats’ stances again closer to the ideas of Olof Palme, thus counteracting neoliberal policies and opposing reduction of funding for welfare and for the integration of immigrants (cuts characteristic of the Reinfeldt age, now overcome by the left-wing and environmentalist wave). "I'm really convinced of the social democratic policy - once Stefan Löfven said in his inaugural speech at the summit of the Social Democratic Party - our values ​​are timeless and I know that many women and men in this country believe to the same values": among his admirers there is Göran Persson, who was Social Democratic Prime Minister from 1996 to 2006 and which stated that in Sweden the awareness that the whole country needs to consider very carefully their own industries is coming back.

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