A New Year’s status from the Scandinavian Prime Ministers
In Denmark, Norway and Sweden the Prime Ministers traditionally end the year with a televised speech to the people. A speech that wraps up the past year and looks ahead at the year to come. Even though we are three different countries with three different governments all Prime Ministers have one thing in common: they are leading minority governments with a difficult 2017 waiting ahead.
This September Norway will hold their national election, and every poll indicates that a change of power awaits, and that especially The Progress Party will be punished for being part of the Norwegian government. In Sweden, the minority government formed by the Swedish Social Democratic Party and The Green Party suffers under catastrophic polls, internal stirs and growing problems with gang shootings. This fall the Danish Prime Minister had to expand the government with two additional parties to prevent an election. Even though the political situation is more calm now, the cooperation between The Social Democrats and The Danish People’s Party is now so strong that it is highly questionable how much policy the Danish government can really pass.
All three speeches reflected the uncertain situation. There were no political news or specific policy initiatives. There is no time to pick up a new fight with the voters for any of the Prime Ministers.
Danish Prime Minister Lars Løkke Rasmussen gave an optimistic New Year’s speech. The speech was a long and optimistic defense of the Danish government’s ability to solve the big Danish challenges. This calls for adjustments and reforms, Rasmussen said, and emphasized the importance of acting smart in times of financial recovery. Both he and the Norwegian Prime Minister stressed the importance of international cooperation: Denmark cannot close around itself. The Danish Prime Minister’s speech lacked political news and specific examples of how the government will “make everyone the winners of tomorrow”, as he said.
Norway warms up to a possible change in power
The Norwegian Prime Minister Erna Solberg knows that it could be the opposition leader Jonas Gahr, who makes the New Year’s speech to the Norwegian people next year. The statistics say so. The rule in Norwegian politics is that The Labour Party has two terms followed by one conservative term. Since 1960 the Norwegian Labour Party has been in government in 33 years and The Conservative Party in about 19 years.
Therefor Erna Solberg did not speak as a party politician and neither did she bring any big political news. Instead she tried to be a unifying stateswoman. Solberg gave an ideological speech, where the consistent theme was each individual’s significance to future value creation. She emphasized the importance of entrepreneurship and knowledge-based business development, when it comes to the future for Norway as a welfare state.
An address from Enköping
December 17th the Swedish Prime Minister, Stefan Löfven, gave his annual Christmas speech in the province town Enköping in the center of Sweden. It was not random that Löfven this year chose to give his speech outside Stockholm. The main message in the speech was a prelude to a final break with the geographic inequality in public service. Specifically, Löfven repeated the government’s promises to bring more resources to schools in more remote areas, great broadband in all parts of the country and a general service check on the public welfare across Sweden.
However, the Swedish Prime Minister did not mention the two major political themes in Sweden at the moment: Integration and housing shortage. The absence of both themes is probably caused by internal disagreements in the coalition government on how these problems should be approached.
Three different countries and three different Prime Ministers. But all of them are leaders of minority governments with big challenges ahead. 2017 awaits, and will be yet another exciting political year in all of Scandinavia.
Happy New Year!