I’ve tried to keep up with the Australian election. I’ve checked the news daily but to be honest I’m bored. Everyday it’s the same. Rudd says this, Howard says that, Rudd responds by saying something remarkably similar but opposing Howard on some minor trivial point. ALP goes up 3%, then down 2%. Columnist after columnist offers tedious analysis of every word and action, all claiming they were the one that always had faith in Rudd’s ability, even when everyone else doubted him. How does the election coverage drag itself out for six weeks? So much fuss when we already know that a bland conservative politician who wears glasses will win it. So instead I’ve been following Swedish politics in what has been a week of full scandals.
But firstly a quick run down of the political situation in Sweden. The current Prime Minister is Frederick Reinfeldt (pictured right), who was elected last year as part of an alliance of various right-wing conservative parties. Swedish politics has traditionally been dominated by the Social Democrats (hence the large welfare state and strong union movement) and the centre-right parties have only ever received enough votes to form government on four occasions. So Freddie’s election win last year was a pretty big deal as conservative PM’s in Sweden are as rare as Liberal voters in Brunswick.
But from the minute Reinfeldt assumed government, his government has been plagued with scandals. Literally within 24 hours two ministers were already in trouble for hiring nannies under the table, and not paying their TV licence fees. Two weeks later they both resigned. A month later, another minister was exposed for hiring personal staff off the books. Since then there have been regular incidents of ministers misusing government credit cards, avoiding tax, and not fully disclosing their personal shares portfolios.
But the big scandal this week is probably as close as Sweden gets to a sex scandal. It involves one of Prime Minister Frederick Reinfeldt’s personal aides, Ulrica Schenström, who last Friday night went out on the town in Stockholm with a journalist from one of the main TV stations. They had a few glasses of wine and were later seen kissing (pictured left). The photos have since been splashed across the front page of every newspaper.
It’s a bit hard for opposition parties to criticise a single woman for having a few drinks in her free time and kissing someone in public. So instead they’ve made a big deal of the fact that she was supposedly on call in case of a national emergency, and that by being out drinking in a bar she was neglecting her duties.
Much media analysis has been dedicated into determining how much she had drunk, and whether she was drunk or not. She has denied she was drunk and insists she could have still performed her duties if called upon. Reinfeldt has accepted this, and didn’t want to pursue the issue further. However it was later revealed that their bar tab was Kr945 (A$160). It might sound like a lot for only two people, but keep in mind that alcohol is very expensive in Sweden, wine is particularly expensive, and in their circles they were probably drinking at a pretty upmarket bar.
Yet this new piece of information has led to an outcry from the media and opposition parties. Some articles have used words like “wine-fuelled” and “heavy consumption”, and the assumption seems to be that she was drunk rather then simply drinking a very expensive bottle of wine. Both Schenström and Reinfeldt have been hounded all week, until finally she resigned. And if that wasn’t enough, it was also revealed that the journalist in question paid for all the drinks, thus constituting a bribe. She may be facing criminal charges soon. If it wasn’t for the fact she was a right wing, union-bashing neo-liberal scumbag, I’d almost feel sorry for her.
Nor do the scandals don’t end here. Ulrica Schenström’s replacement, Nicola Clase, has already got into trouble. Apparently she hired a carpenter under the table to do renovations on her summer home.
On the whole this week Swedish politics has been providing far more entertainment then either Howard or Rudd. However, having said that, Sweden hasn’t quite provided the same scope of scandals as Australian politics. They’ve never had an ex-PM getting caught wearing nothing but a towel in a seedy bar in Memphis. Nor have they produced a minister like Tony ‘I gave up a son for adoption, now I’ve found him, now I’ve learnt he was never actually my son and my ex-girlfriend liked to sleep around’ Abbot. And unlike Australia, Sweden isn’t about to elect a man who likes to get absolutely hammered and go to strip clubs.