It was Social Democrats party leader Magdalena Andersson who set the tone. Already an hour before the debate began, she stood together with the Left Party’s Nooshi Dadgostar and the Green Party’s Märta Stenevi in the press room outside the chamber and said that the government should gather all party leaders to talk about the Koran crisis. To find a way to stop Koran burnings without extensive interference with freedom of expression.
It was an attempt to show a united opposition. But the image was dented by the fact that the Center Party’s Muharrem Demirok had refused to participate. He would rather talk about the African swine fever and what to do to help those affected in the countryside. (Another crisis.)
Crime in focus
When Prime Minister Ulf Kristersson then opened the debate, it was the increasingly crude gang crime that was in focus. Most of his post was a review of what the government has done and plans to do to strengthen the police and toughen penalties. But he also appealed for patience because it takes time to turn the tide.
Then Magdalena Andersson stepped up to the podium. She devoted most of her speech to the Koran burnings, which according to her are carried out by two people who are both connected to the Sweden Democrats. And she claimed that SD’s Richard Jomshof has called for book burnings and exacerbated the crisis.
Magdalena Andersson concluded her post by once again demanding that Richard Jomshof must be separated from his post as chairman of the Riksdag’s justice committee. A topic that she would then return to several times during the debate. Both in duels with Prime Minister Ulf Kristersson and in fierce exchanges with Jimmie Åkesson.
Jomshof issue already settled
But the fact is that the question of Jomshof’s position in the Riksdag has already been decided. Proposals to depose Jomshof have been raised in the committee, but have not received the support of the majority. Jimmie Åkesson has wholeheartedly supported Jomshof and Ulf Kristersson has rejected the idea that he would try to intervene. Magdalena Andersson’s demand will therefore not go through. And she knows that.
Why then does she latch on to the Jomshof case and make it the main issue during an entire party leadership debate? I see three explanations:
1) In times of crisis there is very limited scope for ideological politics. The distinction between left and right is blurred. A current example is tax policy, where the Social Democrats and the Moderates have made similar proposals. S has proposed a broad tax cut that is not significantly different from M’s recent employment tax credit. M has paused the enumeration of the cut-off point for state tax, which S required the government to do. It is therefore difficult for Magdalena Andersson to seriously oppose the government in matters where there is usually a clear conflict.
2) When crisis management is in focus, the opposition’s main task becomes to find weaknesses in the government’s ability and ability to be effective. A weak point in the construction of the government is that three parties have ministers who implement the common policy, while the Sweden Democrats lack a cabinet and instead exert influence via officials at the Government Office. And this despite the fact that SD is the largest party in the government base, which to a large extent dictated the action plan that was established in the Tidö Agreement.
3) Magdalena Andersson still sees an opportunity to split the government base by appealing to the Liberals. The party is still divided internally in the view of cooperation with SD. And at the end of the debate, Magdalena Andersson turned directly to L’s party leader Johan Pehrson, once again brought up Jomshof and claimed that the Liberals “got through more liberal policies when they cooperated with the Social Democrats”.
But Pehrson did not accept the invitation. And after the duel against Magdalena Andersson, he poured a glass of water and joked that “then I’ll take a sprinkler”.