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Swedish Green leader: ‘Easter riots nothing to do with religion or ethnicity’

The riots that rocked Swedish cities over the Easter holidays were nothing to do with religion or ethnicity, but instead come down to class, the joint leader of Sweden's Green Party has told The Local in an interview.

Swedish Green leader: 'Easter riots nothing to do with religion or ethnicity'
Police block off rioters in Rosengård, Malmö, on Saturday night. Photo: Johan Nilsson/TT

Ahead of a visit to the school in Rosengård that was damaged in the rioting, Märta Stenevi said that neither the Danish extremist Rasmus Paludan, who provoked the riots by burning copies of the Koran, nor those who rioted, injuring 104 policemen, were ultimately motivated by religion. 

“His demonstration had nothing to do with religion or with Islam. It has everything to do with being a right extremist and trying to to raise a lot of conflict between groups in Sweden,” she said of Paludan’s protests. 

“On the other side, the police have now stated that there were a lot of connections to organised crime and gangs, who see this as an opportunity to raise hell within their communities.”

Riots broke out in the Swedish cities of Malmö, Stockholm, Norrköping, Linköping and Landskrona over the Easter holidays as a result of Paludan’s tour of the cities, which saw him burn multiple copies of the Koran, the holy book of Islam. 

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More than 100 police officers were injured in the riots, sparking debates about hate-crime legislation and about law and order. 

According to Stenevi, the real cause of the disorder is the way inequality has increased in Sweden in recent decades. 

“If you have big chasms between the rich people and poor people in a country, you will also have a social upheaval and social disturbance. This is well-documented all across the world,” she says. 
 
“What we have done for the past three decades in Sweden is to create a wider and wider gap between those who have a lot and those who have nothing.” 

 
The worst way of reacting to the riots, she argues, is that of Sweden’s right-wing parties. 
 
“You cannot do it by punishment, by adding to the sense of outsider status, you have to start working on actually including people, and that happens through old-fashioned things such as education, and a proper minimum income, to lift people out of their poverty, not to keep them there.”

This, she says, is “ridiculous”, when the long-term solution lies in doing what Sweden did to end extreme inequality at the start of the 20th century, when it created the socialist folkhem, or “people’s home”. 

“It’s easy to forget that 100 to 150 years ago, Sweden was a developing country, with a huge class of poor people with no education whatsoever. And we did this huge lift of a whole nation. And we can do this again,” she says. “But it needs resources, it needs political will.” 
 
 

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2022 SWEDISH ELECTION

Swedish opposition seeks deal on new post-election rule

Sweden's opposition leader has called for an agreement with Sweden's Prime Minister that no government should be allowed to form in future if it does not have support in parliament for its budget.

Swedish opposition seeks deal on new post-election rule

Ulf Kristersson, leader of the Moderate Party, said that there should not be a repeat of the situation seen in last two mandate periods, where the Social Democrats have twice had to rule on a budget drawn up by the right-wing opposition. 

“It is not sustainable that a government grips tightly to power when it cannot get its economic policies passed,” he told Magdalena Andersson during Prime Minister’s question time in the Swedish parliament. “Can the two of us agree that no government should take power without having secured support for its economic policies?” 

It was unclear whether this was a serious proposal or a gambit intended to underline the weakness of the government in the run-up to Sweden’s general election in September. 

Securing support for economic policies is arguably more of a challenge for Magdalena Andersson, as two of the parties likely to support her as Prime Minister after the election, the Centre Party and the Left Party, are deeply divided on economic politics, even though they are united on their unwillingness to back a government dependent on the populist Sweden Democrats. 

The Centre Party has supported Andersson as Prime Minister without voting for the Social Democrats’ budget.  

Kristersson’s call comes after the Social Democrats on Wednesday called for its own budget proposition to fall after a compromise on pensions agreed with the Centre Party was blocked by the parliament’s finance committee from being put before parliament. 

“This was a graphic example of the government’s impotence and the decay of government power,” he said.

Sweden’s prime minister, Magdalena Andersson, did not respond to Kristersson’s proposal, but pointed out that after the last election he had failed to establish a government at all. 

“I think that many among the Swedish people wonder what is happening in parliament just now and think that it is chaotic and incomprehensible,” she said. “My ambition is to establish a government that can get through its economic policies.” 

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