PM: Social Democrats could decide on Nato on May 15th

Sweden's Prime Minister has said that her party has brought forward the date for a decision on Nato membership by ten days, meaning a decision could be in place before a state visit by Finland's president in mid-May.

PM: Social Democrats could decide on Nato on May 15th
Sweden's prime minister, Magdalena Andersson, at a meeting of Nordic leaders in Copenhagen on Wednesday. Photo: TT

The decision had previously been tabled for a meeting of the party board on May 24th, but could now be taken at an extra meeting of the Social Democrats ruling committee on May 15th, Magdalena Andersson said at a press conference on Thursday. 

“We will of course discuss the issue and then we can see if we feel ready to take a decision or not,” she said at a Ukraine donors’ conference in Warsaw. 

She said that the security guarantees Sweden has received from the US and Germany for the period between a possible application and full Nato membership were significant. 

“It means a lot if Sweden chooses to send in an application, that we will be safer during the period up until we become members than we otherwise would be,” she said. 

“The party committee can take a decision then,” Party secretary Tobias Baudin he told Sweden’s TT newswire of the May 15th meeting. 

The meeting will come just two days after the Swedish government’s ‘security policy analysis group’, which includes representatives from all political parties, is due to submit its own reassessment of Sweden’s security situation. 

“It depends on what the security policy dialogue shows,” Baudin says of the decision. “Right now meetings in party districts are going at full pace.” 

The May 15th meeting will take place on the Sunday before the week when Finland’s Iltalehti and Sweden’s Expressen newspaper last month reported Finland and Sweden had already decided to jointly announce a decision to join Nato.

Finland’s president, Sauli Niinistö, is due to visit Stockholm on 17th May and 18 May on a state visit, where he will be hosted by King Karl XVI Gustaf.  

The meeting of the Social Democrats’ ruling committee will come shortly after the party holds three digital members’ meetings on security policy, on May 9th, May 10th and May 12th (although these may also be brought forward). 

There is still resistance in the party’s rank and file, with at least three of the party’s powerful leagues still openly opposed to joining: 

  • The Social Democratic Women in Sweden voted last week to continue its opposition to Nato membership.
  • The Swedish Social Democratic Youth League has said it would prefer Sweden to bolster its security through the EU.
  • The Religious Social Democrats of Sweden has said that it believes the decision should not be rushed through at a time of conflict.  
  • The Social Democrat Students’ League has said that it wants to wait until it has seen the security police analysis before taking a decision. 

None of these leagues can block membership, however. It is the Social Democrats’ ruling party committee which is empowered to take the decision. 

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Sweden’s ruling Social Democrats launch ‘presidential’ election campaign

The Social Democrats rolled out their election campaign on Thursday, focusing heavily on leader Magdalena Andersson, law and order, and jobs, and dropping the environment as a priority.

Sweden's ruling Social Democrats launch 'presidential' election campaign

In a press conference held by party secretary Tobias Baudin, the ruling Social Democrats revealed their campaign posters for the upcoming election on September 11th.

Climate issues

The absence of campaign posters addressing the issue of climate change and the environment was conspicuous, with Baudin explaining when questioned that it is still a priority for the Social Democrats, as the climate transition (klimatomställning) is a “huge opportunity” to create more jobs.

“It’s an opportunity to create more jobs in our country,” he said. “I’m from Norrbotten myself and there’s a lack of jobs there. That’s why it’s so obvious that everyone who can work, should work, and here we see the climate transition as a huge opportunity.”

Furthermore, he said, the climate issue will be “more prominent on social media”, where younger voters are more likely to see it.

Win the election

Baudin also explained the Social Democrats’ goal for the upcoming election.

“Formally, our goal is to get a better result than last time, where we got 28.3%,” he said. “We’ve got good hopes of breaking that with a good margin. Our focus, and my focus, obviously, is to get as many votes as possible.”

“The more votes we get, the better chance we have of carrying out the policies we are going into the election with.”

He did, however, indicate that the party could be open to forming a coalition government following September’s election.

“Our goal is to form a Social Democrat government or a Social Democrat-led government after the election,” he said.

“We can work with all parties apart from the Sweden Democrats, but obviously those who are closest to us are the Greens, the Left Party and the Centre Party”.

Moderates ‘still have a lot of questions to answer’

The opposition right-wing Moderates recently announced their own election campaign focusing on issues where the opposition parties are united in their disagreement with the Social Democrats.

Baudin was disparaging of that campaign, accusing them of dodging the larger issues.

“I noted that they agreed on eleven points,” he said. “One, for example, was that you should be able to make a living by working.”

“I think a lot of people probably agree on that,” he smirked.

“But the big questions – should we have state-run healthcare? State-run schools? The raised threshold in A-kassa? Should that stay? What about foreign policy? What does being dependent on the Sweden Democrats mean for our role in the EU? Connections to Russia? What kind of equality policy will there be? The Liberals’ or the Sweden Democrats’?”

“They still have a lot of questions to answer.”

A presidential-style campaign?

The Social Democrats also revealed four posters focusing on Magdalena Andersson and other prominent party figures, such as Finance Minister Mikael Damberg, Health Minister Lena Hallengren, and Baudin himself.

When asked whether this focus on Andersson and her leadership was a sign that the Social Democrats were aiming for a presidential-style election comparing Andersson to the Moderates’ leader Ulf Kristersson, Baudin did not give a clear answer, choosing instead to focus on Andersson’s leadership.

“We have a party leader who has a high level of voter confidence, she has also handled many crises since November last year […] she’s a very competent party leader and prime minister. And she’s good for Sweden, lots of people also are clear on that.”

My task, our task is to be clear that if you want her as Prime Minister, you can’t vote for the Moderates or the Sweden Democrats. If you want her as Prime Minister, if you want her to lead our country, you have to vote for us.”