The British Helsinki Human Rights Group monitors human rights and democracy in the 57 OSCE member states from the United States to Central Asia.
* Monitoring the conduct of elections in OSCE member states.
* Examining issues relating to press freedom and freedom of speech
* Reporting on conditions in prisons and psychiatric institutions

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Swedish General Election 2002
HITS: 2686 | 30-10-2002, 04:20 | Commentaire(s): (0) |
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Sweden is one of Europe's oldest democracies, but are its elections as correct and fair as the country's reputation would suggest...
This Group’s election observers are often asked by ordinary voters in the post-Communist societies where much of the BHHRG’s activities take place whether there aren’t enough problems back home in the West to keep them occupied. Unlike some other human rights groups, the BHHRG’s observers have never operated on the presumption that they come from states of perfection to observe others. As readers will remember, this Group suggested that serious flaws are apparent in the existing British electoral system and that they are likely to be worsened by proposals to make voter turnout rather than ballot security the key criterion in future regulation of elections in the U.K.
A Swedish correspondent, who shares an interest in much of the Group’s monitoring of human rights and democracy in the Balkans especially, suggested that the BHHRG should monitor aspects of the forthcoming Swedish general election. Along with several other academics, journalists, lawyers and political activists, he suggested that the run-up to the polls on 15th September, 2002, would be a suitable time to study what was happening in the Swedish general election campaign but also some of the controversial issues omitted by common consent of the parties already sitting in the Riksdag. Since BHHRG would like to monitor the forthcoming referendum in Sweden on membership of Economic and Monetary Union (EMU), made concrete by the adoption of the Euro - a poll likely as early as next March - the run up to the general election made a suitable occasion to start background briefing on the issues and problems likely to face Swedish voters next year.
The Outgoing Parliament (Riksdag)
Sweden is ruled by a single-chamber Parliament, the Riksdag, with 349 members chosen by proportional representation from 29 constituencies across the country. A threshold of 4% must be crossed for representation at the national level (or 12% in any individual constituency). At the last election in 1998, 7 parties won seats ranging from the Social Democratic Party (s) with 36.6% and 131 seats to the Greens (mp) with 4.5% and 16 seats. The Social Democrats formed a government with the toleration of the Left Party (v) which won 12% of the vote and 43 seats. Although 1 member short of an absolute majority this de facto coalition could also rely on the Greens to vote with it against the 4 “bourgeois’ parties on those issues where the “bourgeois” parties did not in reality support a consensus with the Social Democrats.
In 1998, the 4 “bourgeois” parties were ranked by the voters in the following way: the Moderate Assembly Party (m) received 22.7% of the votes and 82 seats; the Christian Democrats (kd) received 11.8% and 42 seats; the Centre Party (c) received 5.1% and 18 seats; while the People’s Party – the Liberals (fp) brought up the “bourgeois” rear with 4.7% and 17 seats.
In the run up to 15th September, 2002, opinion polls suggest that only these 7 existing parliamentary parties have realistic chances of election to the new Riksdag. Already much of the discussion is about what will be the make-up of the next coalition. Will Social Democratic Premier, Goran Persson, continue with his reliance on the Left Party (v), which had demanded ministerial positions in a future coalition as its price for support before softening its stance as the Prime Minister hinted he could find other partners? The Greens (mp) for instance have raised such a demand as a condition for supporting a Persson-led government (though whether they will cross the 4% threshold remains in doubt). Or will the Social Democrats ally with a “bourgeois” party which might be more enthusiastic for Persson’s EU-integrationist orientation as well as his support for President Bush’s War on Terrorism?
Marginalized Groups and Overlooked Questions
Given the powerful tradition of consensus in Swedish politics, it is surprising to the outside observer how far the rhetoric of class struggle survives. At least for people and observers on the left the use of the term “bourgeois” as an adjective for the current opposition parties is routine, yet the policies of privatization, encouragement of share-ownership and integration into the EU and globalist models pursued by the current Social Democrat-led government make it difficult for the outsider to see where the big differences lie between the real contenders for office.
As in other EU member states, the consensus among party elites and in the Establishment as a whole masks deeper divisions within society. In 1995, the referendum on EU entry was highly divisive despite the Establishment’s unanimity on the benefits of entry and opinion polls suggest that EMU entry would be at least as tightly contested.



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