Referendum Record This Year
This Swedish election year is setting a record for referendums, with 22 municipal referendums, 13 more than last time. Altogether 17 percent of voters will have an extra ballot on September 17.
Congestion or Tolls
Far and away most of these referendums will be about Stockholm’s , or car tolls. The government’s plan was for only the residents of Stockholm itself to express their opinion in a referendum. But the surrounding municipalities think the issue affects them just as much. Besides Stockholm, 14 other municipalities will be voting on the capital’s congestion charges.
The issue is if there should be a charge for driving into or out of the city. Supporters (Social Democrats, Greens, Left Party) say that fewer cars means a better environment and the money will pay for better public transportation. The opponents (Conservative Moderates, Liberals, and Christian Democrats) say the tolls are anti-growth and just move environmental problems to the surrounding communities.
Wolf Hunts, Splitting Municipalities, and Discount Grocery Stores
Four municipalities in the province of Dalarna (Mora, Orsa, Rättvik, and Älvdalen) are voting over hunting predators, if the municipality should work to protect dogs and other domestic animals from attacks by predators even outside fenced-in areas? It’s those who think there are too many wolves who are behind the referendums, but the issue can only be decided by parliament.
The residents of Eskilstuna will decide on election day if they want to continue as one municipality or whether Torshälla should be split away as Sweden’s 191th municipality.
Härnösand is voting on whether to permit discount supermarkets. The Greens are against, while the other parties are more in favor.
In Gällivare residents will vote on whether to permit cars around the downtown square. There’s been a ban since 1987.
Municipal referendums are always advisory, that is, the results are not legally binding. Since 1980 there have been 69 local referendums in Sweden. The previous record year was 2003, when there were 14 local referendums. Twelve of those concerned the Stockholm congestion charges, and an overwhelming vote against.
Real or Pretend Democrary?
The election authorities say a referendum is a way to find out what the people think about a particular issue. But there are those who think citizens are fooled when referendums are held on issues that are not decided on the municipal level, like car tolls or wolf hunts.
Political scientist Folke Johansson points out that municipalities have very few opportunities to influence the state on such issues and he says that in such cases referendums become a propaganda tool.
List of Election Day Referendums
Stockholm Congestion Charges: