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Ulf Lindgren, priest at Stockholm Cathedral.
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Ulf Lindgren, priest at Stockholm Cathedral. Credit: Phelan Chatterjee/Sveriges Radio
Social Democrat Lars Linder (left) and Sweden Democrat Aron Emilsson (right)
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Social Democrat Lars Linder (left) and Sweden Democrat Aron Emilsson (right) Credit: Anders Löwdin (left), Phelan Chatterjee/Sveriges Radio (right)
A ballot paper for the Church elections.
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A ballot paper for the Church elections. Credit: Gustaf Hellsing/Ikon

Church elections: parties clash on tradition, identity, and marriage

Sweden Democrats: We have more candidates than ever before
6:03 min

The run-up to this Sunday’s Church of Sweden elections has proved to be a real political battleground between the Social Democrats and Sweden Democrats.

Around 5.2 million members of the Lutheran Church of Sweden will cast their votes on Sunday. The Swedish Church elections take place every four years, and have traditionally seen low turnouts. In 2013, only 12.8 percent of the electorate made it to the polls.

But why should people vote on Sunday and what does the church have to do with party politics?

Ulf Lindgren, a priest at Stockholm Cathedral, told Radio Sweden that the elections give ordinary people a say in how church funds should be distributed.

As well as hosting concerts, youth activities and soup lunches for elderly people, the Church has campaigned on migrants’ rights, cultural heritage issues and the environment. It also has a considerable international development operation.

This year's election campaign has largely been fought between two political camps, the Social Democrats and the Sweden Democrats.

The Sweden Democrats have labelled the church a “left-liberal institution” that needs to return to Christian traditions. This year, they are fielding roughly 1000 candidates, up from 130 in 2013.

It has gone from a clear Christian church to more of a political church that is ruled by the Social Democrats’ secular programme.

The Sweden Democrats want the church to take a more active role in helping persecuted Christians around the world.

Lars Linder, the Social Democrats’ ombudsman for Church affairs, called the Sweden Democrats divisive. “Anyone in need of assistance should be able to get it, no matter who it is. Jesus said ‘love each other’, that's the idea the Church of Sweden should be built upon,” he told Radio Sweden.

The parties also clashed on equal marriage. While same-sex couples are currently allowed to marry in Church, individual priests can opt out of officiating. The Social Democrats want to end the opt out system, whereas the Sweden Democrats want to keep today’s system in place.

Our journalism is based on credibility and impartiality. Swedish Radio is independent and not affiliated to any political, religious, financial, public or private interests.
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