These are the key talking points from Sweden’s first party leader debate of 2021

These are the key talking points from Sweden's first party leader debate of 2021
The debate took place in an almost empty chamber. Photo: Janerik Henriksson/TT
The first Swedish party leaders' debate of the year saw politicians go head-to-head on issues such as the Covid-19 pandemic and vaccination programme.

The leader of the Moderate Party and de facto leader of the opposition, Ulf Kristersson, said “the Swedish strategy needs to change”.

Speaking in parliament on Wednesday, he focused on the need to “think outside the box” in order to roll out Covid-19 vaccinations faster to the entire population, and cited examples from Germany, Denmark and England where efforts are under way to give vaccinations in field hospitals, ice rinks and sports stadiums.

But Prime Minister Stefan Löfven said that so far Sweden's regions had shown they could cope well with vaccination without these kinds of extra steps.

“We have a strong vaccination culture to begin with, not every country has that,” he noted.

Kristersson did not focus on criticism of the specific measures in place to curb the spread of infection in his comments on Monday, but did call out government ministers and leaders of state authorities who took a looser interpretation of their own rules.

“It doesn't get any better when those who are preaching don't practise what they preach,” he said.

Prime Minister Stefan Löfven has been criticised for multiple in-person shopping trips in December when public guidance was to avoid busy indoor places such as shopping centres, and the Finance Minister was seen in a ski resort where she had travelled to visit her daughter.

Several directors of state authorities travelled both within Sweden and overseas, prompting the leader of the Civil Contingencies Agency to step down over a Christmas trip to the Canary Islands. 

A senior MP from the Moderate Party also travelled to the Canary Islands over Christmas, and has since apologised for the “bad judgment”.

Both Kristersson and the leader of the Christian Democrats, Ebba Busch, criticised Löfven's leadership abilities. The Prime Minister responded by saying it is still too early to say if and how Sweden could have handled the crisis better, and focused on the need for more resources for the welfare systems and less privatisation of care homes for example.

As well as the coronavirus pandemic, the topic that dominated Wednesday's debate was the recent attack on the US Capitol, which Löfven called “a dark moment”.

“Here too, there are those who want to close our open society. We are not immune to division. Division can also happen here, false news spread as the truth,” he warned.

The leader of the far-right Sweden Democrats, Jimmie Åkesson, criticised the attack but also said that social media platforms blocking US President Donald Trump's accounts were a threat to freedom of speech.

Swedish vocabulary

strategy – (en) strategi

debate – (en) debatt

leader – (en) ledare

freedom of expression – (en) yttrandefrihet


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