Lessons from Sweden’s Red-Green coalition

Green Deputy Prime Minister Åsa Elisabeth Romson. Image by Björn Larsson Rosvall - Exponera 

What we can learn from Sweden's Red-Green government

As of December 2013, Greens held a total of 314 seats in the national legislative bodies of 20 different countries, according to the Global Greens website. In elections in Sweden in September 2014, the Green Party received 6.89 per cent of the vote, winning 25 of 349 seats. As I sat down to write this piece, intended to be a celebration of Green success, the Greens were in government in coalition with the Social Democratic Party. The impressive things that the Swedish Greens wanted to do, and that were included in the statement of government policy, included commitments to: introduce a new climate change framework; put more low-carbon cars on the road; protect more marine reserves and natural forests; improve animal welfare; decrease waste and increase recycling; nationalise the railways; bring in gender budgeting; and create a long-term agreement on energy sustainability. These are all things that we would want, too. The statement of government policy also contained some things that Greens should not be happy with: the abolition of an allowance for those staying at home to raise children; and a commitment to reducing trade barriers. Nonetheless, it seems that Greens have had a positive impact in a short space of time. 

However, this could soon change. Fresh elections are likely to be held in March, following the collapse of the minority government in early December after its budget was voted down. The far-right Swedish Democrats joined forces with the centre-right bloc to vote against the budget proposal, prompting accusations that it is holding the government to ransom. This no longer seems like a celebration, but instead prompts the question: could this be the first of a worrying trend of far-right parties wielding power across Europe? And what should the Swedish Greens do next? 

For us in the UK, it surely must emphasise the need to galvanise all those with Green leanings in response to the emergence of right-wing parties as we head towards our own elections in May.