Sweden: a feminist tiny and local party moves into the european parliament

Grune and Sweden Democrats are the winners

It reminds of the famous Gallic village with its two strong guys. Except this place is in Sweden and the strong person is a woman born in 1948. The place is Simrishamn, a historic little town with 6.500 inhabitants and capital of the coarse municipality of the same name with 19.000 inhabitants on the southeast coast, where countless artists live. In the 2010 local elections, four of the 49 seats were won by a political grouping that is not represented in parliament anywhere else in Sweden. A tiny and local party – which suddenly moves into the European Parliament.

sweden: a feminist tiny and local party moves into the european parliament

Gudrun Schyman. Image: FrankieF/CC BY-SA 3.0

This development is mainly due to the strong woman, the protagonist of this grouping. Gudrun Schyman is an exceptional figure in Swedish politics who can look back on a turbulent political career. It began in the seventies in the Maoist Marxist-Leninistika Kampforbundet for Sveriges kommunistiska parti (m-l) (MLK), from 1977 it acted in the Vansterpartiet Kommunisterna (VPK). In 1988 Schyman was elected to the Reichstag. After the party abandoned its traditional orientation in 1990 and changed its name to Vansterpartiet, Schyman was elected party leader in 1993.

Under her agide the party gained popularity, mainly because Schyman acts and speaks unconventionally. She disposed of communist concepts and introduced feminist positions. In 2002, she read the riot act to her self-righteous comrades at a party congress: Norms, structures and patterns behind the oppression of women are always the same and are repeated in the Taliban’s Afghanistan as well as in Sweden. She openly dealt with her own alcohol addiction and sought to make the Reichstag an alcohol-free zone.

In 2004, she suggested in the Reichstag that the financial costs of male violence against women should be recorded nationwide and that a state fund for protective measures against women should be set up "Man Tax". In a spectacular action in 2010, it burned exactly 100.000 Swedish kronor in hundred-kronor notes – in protest against unequal pay for women and men.

After a tax affair, Schyman resigned from the party presidency in 2003, in 2004 she left the party, then in 2005 she co-founded Feministiskt initiativ (FI, also F!), which was supported by Jane Fonda, among others, in the 2006 parliamentary elections. But their only success so far has been getting into the local parliament of Simrishamn, where Schyman lives, with 8.9 percent of the vote. Thanks to its specific mix of parliamentary and extra-parliamentary work, however, the tiny FI has been able to attract increasing attention.

Their mini-budget of about 500.000 crowns (equivalent to about 55.000 euros) for the 2014 election year, including a donation from Abba founder Benny Andersson, forces unusual mabnahme: If a venue and at least 25 attendees are guaranteed, Schyman will come to a political house party for free – 250 there have been in recent months. Joining the FI can be done by SMS. Such non-ideological and pragmatic approach proves attractive especially for young, well-educated urban women.

The fact that the FI on Sunday donated more than 188.000 out of nearly 3.6 million votes cast and a 5.3 percent share of the European Parliament is of paramount importance. The first reason is obvious: even in Sweden, the pioneer of gender equality, discrimination, restrictions and repression against women persist, which is often overlooked or pushed into the background in view of progressive rules and laws.

Then the FI stands out refreshingly from the monotony and boredom of most other parties, as is also the case in Germany. Where debates are flattening and the same old platitudes prevail, where positions are often indistinguishable, where the future of society is merely the next legislative period, the FI has not only been able to distinguish itself with its fundamental demands for a humane and social society, but has also been able to present itself as credible. FI insists that there is much to be done and interprets feminism as a guiding principle: real equality and equality are not considered to be "Women’s ie", but are demanded for all, especially for any minority.

sweden: a tiny, local feminist party moves into the european parliament

Election campaign poster with Soraya Post

Their top candidate for the European election campaign was Soraya Post, who as a Roma experienced all the dark sides of Swedish society firsthand and now works for the Council of Europe on Roma rights and as a human rights expert. A grouping can hardly be clearer against discrimination, against xenophobia, against racism. Post’s election represents a real and gratifying counterpoint to what has been described as "Europe-wide shift to the right" operates. No wonder the most shouted slogan at the FI election party was: "Out with the racists, in with the feminists!"

Right-wing populists are also gaining ground in Sweden

The unabashedly dangers and problems of immigration evoked Sverigedemokraterna (SD, Sweden Democrats) were able to maintain their vote total of 100.000 in the 2009 EU elections to a current total of 345.000, equivalent to 9.7 percent of the votes cast. They will take two of Sweden’s 20 seats. Party leader Jimmie Ã…kesson is still keeping his distance from the Le Pens and Wilders – he does not want to jeopardize his party’s chances in the upcoming parliamentary elections.

In addition to FI and SD, these elections, in which the turnout increased from 43.8 in 2009 to 48.9 percent, saw another clear winner. The Miljopartiet de grona (MP, Grune), took in an astonishing 15.3 percent of the vote. Its vote share grew from 330.000 to just under 541.000 – it will take three seats in the EU Parliament. Thus, and this is a real sensation, MP is stronger than the strongest governing party. Prime Minister Fredrik Reinfeldt’s Moderaterna gained 5.2 percent and ended up with 13.6 percent. Its most important coalition partner, the Folkpartiet liberalerna (FP), also lost significantly, its share falling from 13.6 to 10.0 percent. The two smaller governing parties made slight gains, Centerpartiet to 6.5 percent and Kristdemokraterna to 6.0 percent.

The Social Democrats (Arbetarepartiet-Socialdemokraterna) stagnated, achieving 24.4 percent, while the Left Party (Vansterpartiet) made slight gains, reaching 6.3 percent. With only 2.2 percent, the Piratpartiet failed to reach the four-percent threshold. If we take these results as a basis, a "left" Coalition of opposition Social Democrats, Grunists, Leftists and feminists to win more than 51 percent of the vote – while the ruling civic coalition (Alliansen) is still only able to muster 36.1 percent.

It’s going to be an exciting summer, the Reichstag election on 14. September could bring about change. In Sweden, minority governments are the norm, and cooperation across party and bloc lines is a matter of course. So, much more exciting than the question of majorities is whether the political discussion will really be enlivened, whether real debates about fundamental choices will emerge.

Due to countless problems, for example in the social sector, in the schools run by commercial companies or in the national infrastructure, various opinion polls indicate that the majority of people adopt an attitude of progress through preservation. More than half of the Swedes are willing to pay considerable taxes – as long as the state provides a reasonable social and health care system, good education and training as well as a functioning infrastructure.