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Green Party move to be more "pragmatic"

Published söndag 15 maj 2016 kl 07.08
Party member: "We hadn't realised what it is to be in government"
(9:39 min)
Newly elected leaders of the Green Party: Gustav Fridolin and Isabella Lövin.
Newly elected leaders of the Green Party: Gustav Fridolin and Isabella Lövin. Photo: Thomas Johansson/TT

Pragmatism has been the byword at the Green party conference over the weekend, where the party - after 1,5 years in government - is trying to finally make the transition from being an opposition party, to a governing party.

At the Green Party's annual conference in Karlstad over the weekend, there has been plenty of talk of the need to "navigate on stormy waters", and to make sure you have a steady hold on the rudder when the sailing is rough. And the delegates themselves have not been shying away from using the word "crisis" - although their explanation for it varies.

"It has mostly been a crisis in the media, about different representatives and how they have acted and presented themselves towards to public. That gives me some hope, it would be a lot more problematic if the crisis was more political," said Anders Schröder is a member of parliament for the party.

Party member Anette Mårtenson from Lund, on the other hand, said she thought the crisis is a sign that they had entered into the government "too fast".
"We haven't really realised what it is to be in the government, and at the same time be a party," she said. "We've realised it now, and that is why we have to deal with it," she added.

On the surface, the turbulence has been about a minister who was dining with far-right representatives and then had difficulties in owning up to this being a problem, plus a candidate who was nominated to the party board who refused to shake women's hands due to his religious beliefs, leading to questions about where the party stands on feminism, and whether it is prepared to compromise on some core values, to allow minority groups among its elected representatives.

But it then also lead to the party leadership being questioned, and in the beginning of the week, one of the leaders, Åsa Romson, announced that she would be stepping down.

On Friday, that is what she did, giving way to the male party leader, Gustav Fridolin, to be re-elected, and for the current Minister for Foreign Aid, Isabella Lövin, to replace her as the female party leader. In Karlstad, party member Hugo Qvinth said that the events over the past few weeks have been part of a maturing process.

"I know that the Green party in Germany, when they were elected in government, they had a similar process. When they came in, there was a lot that changed, because you are in a is a different position, a lot more focus on your representatives," he said.

The German example was for the party to initiate a discussion in the party about the party's core values and to re-establish what the party stands for. That is also something that the new leadership in the Swedish Green Party has said that it would do.

"I think that is a mature decision," said Hugo Qvinth.

For re-elected party leader Gustav Fridolin the lessons learnt are also on a personal level.

"I've learnt a lot about communications of course, the importance of being totally clear in a situation like this... More longer term, the biggest lesson for me, is the importance is to actually standing up for the decisions and the compromises you are doing in government," he said.

Last autumn, Gustav Fridolin famously said, when the government decided to severely tighten the rules for asylum seekers, that it was a "shitty" decision, that they would want to reverse as soon as possible. 

Internally in the party, this has been among those decisions hardest to swallow. But, now, Fridolin and his new leadership partner Isabella Lövin, talk about the importance of stressing the solution, and not just the problems - something they see as part of moving from being an opposition party, to becoming a governing party.

"We are willing to take this responsibility, because we want to see the change. So we have our goal, our vision, of a green sustainable society, and we shouldn't stop at each step of the way where we can't do it 100 percent the way that we imagine, but we need to take the small steps to the side sometimes to continue in the right direction," said Isabella Lövin, who - ahead of being elected - stressed the importance of combining vision, with pragmatism.

One former party leader, Peter Eriksson, now Member of the European Parliament, said that pragmatism may be the new face of the Green Party.

"Maybe that is necessary, because when you stand up in the government, you have to a be a government for all the people, not only for your own electors, and you have to make compromises and stand up to these compromises and say that this was necessary and explain why it was necessary, and not stand beside and say that 'it was their fault'," he said.

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