Many people were interested in what the new opposition leader; the new chairman of the Social Democrats, would say when he spoke in Gothenburg.
Stefan Löfven was elected in January but has held a low profile and been able to watch the numbers in the polls increase for his party. They have gained more than ten percent in a few months despite the fact that he has not done or said anything. (Some would say that this is the reason, that since he hadn’t given any answers, people can fill in the blanks as they like and dream of a Social Democratic party that fits their specific set of opinions. This would of course not work when we approach the next election. It is also true that the numbers in the January-polls were unrealsitically low so a bounce up was almost inevitable)
Stefan Löfven's speech
Those who hoped for a specified political content in Löfven’s speech were disappointed. He tried to point at a political direction in a very broad way. The leftist rhetoric that characterized his predecessor Håkan Juholt (party chairman March 2011 to January 2012) was replaced by a more centrist-left rhetoric with focus on stable public finances and creation of jobs. (These two fields are ironically the two areas that the center-right government also claims as their most important fields)
Löfven spoke about the importance of healthy companies, to make it possible for companies to find the right staff and to use education programs to make people employable. He criticized the Prime Minister for calling the business world a “special interest”. What we see is perhaps the beginning of some kind of meta-triangulation. The Moderate party (liberal-conservative) started to call themselves “the new Labour party” a few years ago and steal some of the Social Democrats' rhetoric. Now it is not impossible that Löfven’s Social Democrats wants to be “the new business party”, or at least copy the Moderates’ tactic of ‘hostile take overs’ of certain concepts.
Löfven also focused on foreign policies, of course as a way to be perceived as Prime Minister material. He spoke about his trip to Colombia where they met refugees and his meetings with the former Brazilian President Lula da Silva.
Löfven: “It is the same desire for freedom in Gothenburg, in Ramallah, in Minsk and in Damascus”.
In general, the speech contained more “freedom” than “equality” and the topics that were covered were rather harmless and uncontroversial. Löfven still needs time to consolidate his position in the party and the party needs time to recover from their terrible winter months when Juhult was toppled and a leaderless party almost broke the 20 percent barrier on their way down in the polls. But already on Sunday, Löfven and Prime Minster Reinfeldt will meet in a debate in the Swedish television. The closer we get to the 2014 election, the harder the pressure will be on Löfven to deliver answers on specific questions.
Jonas Sjösteedt's speech
The chairman of the Left Party Jonas Sjöstedt spoke in Stockholm. Sjöstedt is also new on his position and replaced Lars Ohly earlier this year. Sjöstedt held a much more ideological speech than Löfven. He covered many topics; he attacked the euro and called the current euro crises “a crisis for capitalism”, he talked about his proposed extra tax on the four biggest banks and on a ban of weapon export to dictatorships.
Sjöstedt identified unemployment, education and building more accommodation as key fields. In order to meet the unavoidable criticism for fiscal irresponsibility, he said:
“Our opponents keep asking where we will get the money. The answer is that the money exists already. Sweden has never been this rich. It is only about distribution”.
Sjöstedt also touched foreign policy:
“Recognize the free Palestine’s right to independence without Israeli occupation or oppression. We need a foreign policy which does not ask neither Washington nor Brussels when we recognize West-Sahara’s right to independence. We want a foreign minister without oil spots on his jacket."
Sjöstedt also talked about the Left Party being a feminist party and about the importance to win the elections on all levels in Stockholm since the capital is the “design factory” of the Moderate Party. “There is a struggle about our way of thinking”.
It is easy to see that Löfven and Sjöstedt are very different as speakers and politicians. They also seem to be a political gap between them, but whether or not this gap is too big to form a future governmental coalition if they win in 2014, is too early to say.
Finally, it can be worth to mention that, not only socialist parties, but also the Christian Democrats (KD) held a demonstration in Sweden’s fourth biggest city Uppsala. This provoked some people to the left who felt May 1st is their day. KD’s meeting focused totally on the importance of Family. Their possession was the biggest in Uppsala, twice as big as the Social Democrats’ according to the police.