A domestic political struggle in Sweden mingles with geopolitics

STOCKHOLM — It would have been just a domestic political crisis at any other time in Sweden: a senior cabinet official facing a no-confi...


STOCKHOLM — It would have been just a domestic political crisis at any other time in Sweden: a senior cabinet official facing a no-confidence vote from a disgruntled opposition and a vow from his party to back him.

But an effort by right-wing lawmakers to oust Sweden’s justice minister over rising gun violence has become embroiled in geopolitics, complicating the country’s bid to join NATO after Russia invaded Ukraine.

Prime Minister Magdalena Andersson’s government averted a political crisis on Tuesday when an Iranian-Kurdish lawmaker abstained in the no-confidence vote, after securing a pledge that Sweden would not bow to Turkish demands over a Swedish application to become a member of the Alliance. That left the opposition one vote short of the majority it needed to remove Justice Minister Morgan Johansson.

Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdogan has threatened to block Sweden and Finland to join NATO, criticizing the nations for welcoming Kurdish militants whom he sees as his country’s main enemy and has called “terrorists”.

The latest wave of political instability began after Sweden’s far-right parties accused the centre-left government of failing to address rising gun violence and crime in the country, linking it to rising immigration levels, and called on Mr Johansson to resign. Conservative parties also supported the motion of no confidence.

“Sweden has become a gangster country,” said Jimmie Akesson, the leader of the far-right Swedish Democrats party. on Twitter. “Insecurity is setting in and gang crime is anything but resolved.”

The government has said it views the vote against Mr Johansson as a vote against him, with Ms Andersson vowing to step down if the effort is successful. The government said it had already stepped up policing and tackled crime in recent years, including a series of new measures after the April riots between far-right extremists and their opponents injured several police officers.

“We are in a very delicate position for our NATO candidacy – with Finland.” Ms Andersson said on Thursday, calling the censorship effort “totally irresponsible”.

She added: “We are not able to play political games in Sweden. It’s dangerous.”

Jonas Hinnfors, a political scientist at the University of Gothenburg, said with Swedes heading to the polls for a general election in September, the opposition was taking a calculated risk against a weak coalition government. “It’s a way for the opposition to show that they are a fragile government with elections coming up.”

With votes for and against the no-confidence motion split, the deciding vote for a majority was left to an independent lawmaker, Amineh Kakabaveh, a Swede of Iranian-Kurdish descent and Kurdish veteran, who demanded the government not capitulate not ahead of Turkey.

Ms Kakabaveh said in an interview that she had wanted to pressure the government not to give in to Mr Erdogan’s demands and uphold Swedish values ​​of human rights and independence.

His decision to abstain came after the government said it would support Kurdish militias fighting Islamic State in Syria.

Mr Erdogan wants Sweden to cut ties with fighters in Syria who are affiliated with the Kurdistan Workers’ Party, or PKKwho wants an independent Kurdish state in areas partly within Turkey’s borders.

Both the United States and the European Union have designated the PKK as a terrorist organization, although governments such as Sweden are more supportive, viewing it as a Kurdish nationalist movement.

“A foreign power should not decide who sits in Swedish government or Swedish sovereignty, Swedish laws and Swedish values,” said Ms Kakabaveh, known as a high-profile feminist in Sweden, who brokered a deal in November. last to support Mrs Andersson’s leadership. This was in exchange for assurances that the government would cooperate with the Syrian Democratic Union Party, a Kurdish left-wing group, and work for the release of Kurdish politicians imprisoned in Turkey, among others.

“His agenda has always been for Kurdish groups who fought against Daesh and against Turkey in various ways,” said Mr. Hinnfors, the political scientist, using an Arabic acronym for Islamic State.

He said Ms Kakabaveh, who was originally elected with the left-wing party before becoming independent – and will not be running for a seat without party affiliation – was trying to make the most of her remaining time. as a legislator. “Some kind of appeasement of Erdogan is probably in Sweden’s interest to secure the NATO bid,” he said. “But it would be against his interests.”

Christina Anderson reported from Stockholm and Isabella Kwai from London.



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Newsrust - US Top News: A domestic political struggle in Sweden mingles with geopolitics
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