Sweden is in the middle of a "super election year" with elections taking place for the European Parliament, as well as local and national elections. After eight years of a right-wing government, our guest says the balance of power is set to shift to a red-green alliance between the country’s Left Party and Green Party. "There is a lot at stake for a lot of people," says Andreas Gustavsson, editor-in-chief of the daily Swedish newspaper Dagens ETC. He discusses key issues in the election, and recent protests against the Party of the Swedes, a neo-Nazi party whose members oppose immigration and have joined in fighting alongside fascist groups in Ukraine.
While the United States considered the African National Congress a terrorist organization, the Swedish government openly funded the group for decades. According to many accounts, Sweden was the largest single source of financial aid to the ANC. Olof Palme, the Swedish prime minister, was assassinated in 1986 just a week after he gave a keynote speech at the Swedish People’s Parliament Against Apartheid in Stockholm. Rumors have swirled for years about the South African government’s involvement in his killing. Shortly after he was released in 1990, Nelson Mandela came to Sweden on one of his first foreign stops after being released from prison. During an address to the Swedish Parliament, Mandela thanked Sweden for standing in the "front ranks of the international forces that have fought against the apartheid system." On Wednesday night, one of Mandela’s closest associates, Ahmed Kathrada, spoke in the Swedish town of Visby, which is hosting the week-long political festival Almedalen Week. Kathrada spent 26 years in prison, including 18 years on Robben Island.
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After 2 Years of Confinement, Will Sweden Resolve Assange's Case? Swedish Foreign Minister Won't Say
Swedish Foreign Minister Carl Bildt refuses to address questions from Democracy Now!'s Amy Goodman about the case of WikiLeaks founder Julian Assange, who is wanted for questioning in Sweden on allegations of sexual offenses. Assange's attorneys recently asked the Swedish government to withdraw a warrant that has kept him confined in Ecuador’s London Embassy for two years. Assange has voiced fears he would ultimately be sent for prosecution in the United States if he were to return to Sweden. Assange’s attorneys say the warrant should be lifted because it cannot be enforced while Assange is in the embassy and Swedish prosecutors refuse to question him in London. Although Assange faces a warrant for questioning, he has not been formally charged. Fifty-nine international organizations have submitted reports to the United Nations challenging Sweden’s treatment of Assange. Speaking at the Almedalen political festival in Visby, Bildt refuses to address the case directly, calling it an issue for the Swedish judicial system, not its political one. We get reaction to Bildt’s comments from Assange legal adviser Jen Robinson, who also discusses the parallels between Assange and National Security Agency whistleblower Edward Snowden. "We are now seeing a trend of whistleblowers, publishers, journalists having to seek asylum and refuge in countries around the world because of their concern about prosecution in the United States," Robinson says.
At the Almedalen political festival in Visby, Swedish lawmaker Per Bolund joins us to talk climate change, national politics, Sweden’s response to global National Security Agency surveillance and the government’s standoff with WikiLeaks founder Julian Assange. Elected to to the Swedish Riksdag in 2006, Bolund serves as the Green Party’s spokesperson for finance policy and is a member of the party’s board of directors.
While Sweden is known as the birthplace of Alfred Nobel, founder of the Nobel Peace Prize, many do not realize it is also one of the world’s largest arms manufacturers. Sweden is in fact the third largest arms exporter per capita after Israel and Russia. Swedish company, Saab, makes more than 50 percent of the weapons the country exports. While the Swedish government often takes a neutral position in international conflicts and offers assistance through peacekeeping missions and foreign aid, it has continued to send military equipment to regimes accused of human rights abuses, including Saudi Arabia, Thailand, Bahrain and Egypt. We speak with two guests: peace activist Martin Smedjeback, who has served three prison sentences for breaking into weapons factories and hammering on weapons meant for export, and with Anna Ek, president of Swedish Peace and Arbitration Society, the world’s oldest peace organization. Ek says that while Sweden signed the global Arms Trade Treaty earlier this year, it has resisted incorporating anti-corruption provisions into the country’s own laws.
After Breaking Gender Barrier, Sweden's 1st Female Archbishop Leads Church into Climate Change Fight
At the week-long Almedalen political festival in Visby, Sweden, one of the major issues has been climate change and Sweden’s role in addressing the crisis. In May, the bishops of the Church of Sweden issued a joint statement calling climate change "the biggest common challenge ever faced by humanity." Sweden’s new archbishop, Antje Jackelén, is among those calling for scientists, politicians, cultural icons and religious leaders to work in concert to address the issue. Jackelén issued the call after making history as Sweden’s first-ever female archbishop. "As a church, we are part of a global movement," she says. "The question of justice is at the heart of the Christian Church."
Democracy Now! is on the road in the Swedish city of Visby, on the island of Gotland in the Baltic Sea, during Almedalen Week — a week-long political festival perhaps unlike any other in the world. More than 25,000 people have gathered to hear political speeches and take part in seminars. Every Swedish political party is represented, from the Social Democrats to the Greens to the Feminist Initiative party, along with hundreds of other political organizations. We get an overview of the political situation in Sweden from Brian Palmer, a social anthropologist at Uppsala University. Palmer says progressive and Green candidates are expected to gain ground in Sweden’s election this September, and notes the country just became the first to send a militant feminist to the European Union. Sweden has a policy to grant asylum to anyone from Syria, and a recent study found attitudes toward immigrants are more positive in Sweden than in any other European country.
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- Massive Pro-Democracy Rally Held in Hong Kong
In the latest revelations from documents leaked by National Security Agency whistleblower Edward Snowden, The Washington Post has revealed the Foreign Intelligence Surveillance Court secretly gave the National Security Agency sweeping power to intercept information "concerning" all but four countries around the world. A classified 2010 document lists 193 countries that would be of valid interest for U.S. intelligence. Only four were protected from NSA spying — Britain, Canada, Australia and New Zealand. The NSA was also given permission to gather intelligence about the World Bank, the International Monetary Fund, the European Union and the International Atomic Energy Agency. As we broadcast from Bonn, Germany, we are joined by Sarah Harrison, investigative editor of WikiLeaks, who accompanied Snowden on his flight from Hong Kong to Moscow last June. She now lives in exile in Germany because she fears being prosecuted if she returns to her home country, the United Kingdom. Harrison describes why she chose to support Snowden, ultimately spending 39 days with him in the transit zone of an airport in Moscow, then assisting him in his legal application to 21 countries for asylum, and remaining with him for about three more months after Russia granted him temporary asylum. She has since founded the Courage Foundation. "For future Snowdens, we want to show there is an organization that will do what we did for Snowden — as much as possible — in raising money for legal defense and public advocacy for whistleblowers so they know if they come forward there is a support group for them," Harrison says.
"It's a Basic Healthcare Issue": Planned Parenthood's Cecile Richards Reacts to Birth Control Ruling
In a closely watched case, the U.S. Supreme Court has ruled most private companies that claim religious objections can refuse to provide birth control in their employee health plans as required by the Affordable Care Act. In a 5-to-4 ruling opposed by all three women on the court, the justices ruled that requiring "closely held corporations" to pay for contraception violates a federal law protecting religious freedom. About 90 percent of U.S. businesses are considered "closely held corporations." The ruling concerned two companies, Hobby Lobby and Conestoga Wood, which objected to certain methods of birth control on religious grounds, claiming they are akin to abortion, despite scientific consensus to the contrary. Critics say the ruling allows discrimination against women, 99 percent of whom will use birth control at some point in their lives. "For women, this is not a controversial issue. It is a basic healthcare issue. It is an economic issue," says Cecile Richards, president of the Planned Parenthood Federation of America and the Planned Parenthood Action Fund. "The only controversy is why in the world, in 2014, are we still fighting to get birth control covered by insurance plans?"
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