It was a party with a lot of self-confidence that gathered for a conference in Karlstad in western Sweden this weekend. The Swedish Green Party see themselves as riding on top of the great contemporary green wave. And certainly there is cause for confidence. Climate change is the greatest challenge of our time and the party has grown in both parliamentary seats and membership. The latter has doubled in the last two years.
Therefore it probably did not sound strange to the delegates when the outgoing spokesman (instead of a party leader, the Greens has two spokespersons) Peter Eriksson said that the party is the majority in 100 Swedish municipalities. What he meant was, of course, that they are part of the majority in 100 Swedish municipalities. There’s a difference.
For even if the Green Party did its best election ever last year, it was hardly a good election result. It was, after all, only 7.3 percent of the electorate that voted for them. All parliamentary parties, except the Sweden Democrats, have at least once since 1998 had a better result. In the 1998 election both the Left Party and the Christian Democrats had election results of around 12 percent. Today they are balancing on the 4 percent parliamentary threshold.
But with strong self-confidence the Green Party still talks about themselves as the third force in Swedish politics. Increasingly, we hear representatives talk about the party taking parliamentary responsibility and standing beyond the left-right scale. The idea is of course that now when the red-green cooperation is put on hold, to play out the political blocks against each other. The big problem with this strategy is that 7 out of 10 green voters define themselves as left. It might even be that many of them first and foremost voted for a red-green government.
Given that these voters to a very large extent come from a notoriously unfaithful part of the electorate, the well educated progressive urban middle class, it is not certain that they are prepared to accept flirtations with the minority centre-right government even if it means the party maximizes its influence.
It might be that we are standing at the gates of the golden age of green politics. But it is by no means certain.