Who you gonna call?

In a few weeks, Sweden will be voting for a new government.

One Swedish phenomenon around election time is the ‘valstuga’. The ‘valstuga’ is a little rustic hut placed on squares, in parks, on road junctions, outside shopping centres and erected by one of the many political parties. In these little colourful huts you can find little representatives of the respective party that built the hut. Like in a fairy tale, you can go into the hut and talk to them and ask them questions about why they should get just your vote.

This brings the politicians closer to the people. It also brings the countryside, never very far away in the Swedish pyche, into the cities.

Another phenomena is the ‘valaffisch’, or election poster. As in many other countries, each party has campaign posters on which they promote their main message or their main personalities. In Sweden, these posters pop up overnight. Pasted on fences, walls, lamp posts, doors, walls, they paste the towns with election propaganda. Many posters don’t stay where they have been attached. The wind, or ill-willed opponents, often tear the posters down and throw them into the streets. This year, the environmental message is dominant. A greener Sweden. A more ‘climate smart’ industry. Reduce emissions. ‘We are your green voice’.

All I can think about it is the massive environmental impact of all this printed trash all over the city. Seems like a mixed message to me.

Who do you call to report the political parties for littering?

Postal order democracy

When I came home from work, there it was lying on the mat in the hallway. A little slip of paper, quite innocent. It told me to go to my nearest newsagent and pick up a parcel that they were holding for me.

So, the next day, I trot down to the newsagent, recyclable bottles in one hand, the dog’s leash in the other. After recyling the glassware, I walk into the newsagents and pick up my parcel. Well, actually it is an envelope. A big, white envelope. With a logo on. On closer inspection, I realised that the logo is three crowns and the letter is from the Immigration Office.

I walk over to a neighbouring park and sit down on a bench, my dog lying at my feet. The sun is shining, and a slight breeze comes across the lawn. I open the envelope with bated breath.

Inside the envelope is a certificate.

It says, ‘This certifies that Neil Shipley has been awarded Swedish citizenship.’

So you see, I am now a Swedish citizen! I have double citizenship of Sweden and of the UK. And it feels good.

People ask me why I applied for citizenship after 16 years of living in Sweden. For me the answer is simple – it’s a question of democracy. I have chosen not to vote in the UK since I don’t live there. I have not been allowed to vote in Sweden. I have been in a democratic wasteland. But now, I can vote in the general election that takes place in a couple of weeks. And I think that’s important.

Being Swedish makes everything just more simple. Apart from in one respect. This blog – ‘Watching the Swedes’.

Does my citizenship mean that I have to watch myself too?

The decay of Sweden

An interesting article about Sweden in the UK’s Guardian on Sunday describes the decay of Sweden.

Uppsala’s Chief of Police, who was a rabid anti-sexism activist, but who has been found guilty of abusing and raping women and children is central to this portrait of Sweden. The journalist compares him to a character out of Henning Mankell or Stieg Larson’s crime books.

Sweden has an international and domestic image of itself as an equal, modern country with a strong tendency for concensus. According to the journalist, this image is way out of sinc with the Göran Linberg scandal.

He goes on to describe cut-backs in the health care system, political corruption, abuse of power, the assassination of Olof Palme, the submarine scandal, and sex scandals involving MP’s as examples of things that break through the Swedish facade and reflect a society crumbling from within.

To read the article, follow this link: