Jobs and security dominated Swedish party leader debate
With less than a year until the next election, the leaders of Sweden's eight parliamentary parties went head to head in a TV debate on Sunday, discussing everything from welfare and health care to jobs, the climate and social security.
It was the first party leader debate for Ulf Kristersson, the newly appointed leader of the main opposition party, the conservative Moderates, and it started with a "duel" between him and the Social Democrat prime minister Stefan Löfven.
Kristersson accused Löfven of not taking the problems that Sweden faces seriously enough and of wasting time on ineffectual measures. Integration and social exclusion are not being properly addressed by the government, Kristersson claimed.
"We still have problems, but the only thing you're doing is saying we should lower taxes," Löfven countered.
Löfven said measures proposed by the four parties within the centre-right opposition Alliance (the Moderates, the Liberals, the Christian Democrats and the Centre Party) to get newly arrived immigrants and others on to the labour market would, in effect, lead to lower wages overall.
The most heated moment of the debate came when the Christian Democrats' Ebba Busch Thor refused to shake the hand of the Sweden Democrats' leader, Jimmie Åkesson.
Åkesson said his party and the Alliance, in effect, agree on how to improve the Swedish health-care system and that it is irresponsible for the Alliance parties to refuse to collaborate with him on the matter. The Alliance should join forces with the Sweden Democrats against the centre-left government, Åkesson insisted.
"You have allowed this government to rule for three years when together we could have stopped it," said Åkesson, referring to the 2014 government crisis when the Alliance had the opportunity to, with the support of the Sweden Democrats, reject the proposed budget from the then newly formed government.
Busch Thor said she did not want to negotiate with Åkesson, whom she accused of leading a scandal-prone party over which he does not seem to have control, she said.
The Green Party's Gustav Fridolin and the Centre Party's Annie Lööf also debated who has the most effective green policies and Fridolin raised the issue of an airline tax, which his party is pushing for. Lööf said that her party has an alternative proposal that involves requiring airlines to use more biofuels.
Fridolin and the Left Party leader, Jonas Sjöstedt, also attacked Åkesson for his party’s stance on immigration and Sjöstedt demanded that Åkesson apologise on behalf of his party’s parliamentary group leader’s Facebook post earlier in the week where he labelled two young people “illegal immigrants” though they hold residence permits.