Friday, September 17, 2010

Another election coming up

The Swedish election is only a couple of days away. The polls open on Sunday - that's Sunday evening here, and we'll know the results on Monday morning. Throughout summer, the vaguely right ruling coalition and the sort-of left opposition have been more or less neck and neck, while the neo-Nazi Sweden democrats have been hovering right around the 4% limit for getting parliamentary seats.

The last few days have seen the opinions shift decisively towards the ruling coalition; the gap to the opposition seems to have grown to around 8-10 percentage points or so. And it looks very likely that the racist Sweden democrats will indeed gain seats in parliament. This is connected, as a fair number of their likely voters are younger working-class former Social Democrats abandoning their old party. While the opposition still could defy the polls and pull out a win, the most realistic question is if the ruling coalition will get enough seats for a majority or if they'll have to form a minority government.

Now, a minority government is not a disaster, and Sweden has had them before. The opposition is trying to argue that a minority center-right government would have to lean on the Sweden democrats, and a vote for them is an implicit vote for the neo-Nazis. But apart from the fact that the same argument could equally be made against a minority center-left government, it is simply false.

A wrinkle of Swedish parliamentary rules is that a government does not need majority approval to pass the budget (or, I believe, other important bills). All they need is for a majority not to vote against. The government can present the budget bill, and the opposition has to muster a positive majority in order to defeat it. I guess that in principle you don't need a single vote in favour to pass a bill, though that'd be extraordinarily unusual.

This means that the opposition would have to make common cause with the racist SD in order to topple the government. The SD is poaching Social Democrat voters by promises of limiting foreign-born workers and restrict multiculturalism, so some of their parliamentarians may become tempted to try to use this discontent and vote with the SD against a center-right government. And within the Communist party there are those who are blinded enough by their hate for the conservative parties that they may see the SD as the lesser evil, or believe that the end of conservative government justifies the means.

But most Social Democrats and Communists - and certainly all but a vanishing few of Green party members - would be horrified by the association. All parties have loudly renounced any association with the SD, and it's difficult to even come up with a situation where any of them would contemplate common cause with the SD.

A much more likely scenario is for the Green party to act as a silent partner, passively supporting the government in exchange for support for one or two bills of their own. And while many of their members are left-leaning, they aren't very clearly placed in one point of that political scale, so it would not be inconceivable that they could actively support a centrist government at some point.

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