On the 13 of June, 38% of the Swedish electorate turned out to elect their 22 EUP-representatives. One may quite safely assume that of those 62% who stayed at home a great majority were EU-negative; the big loser in these elections was the strongly EU-negative Green Party, which lost two of its four seats.
The two winners were the Liberals (3 seats, a gain of 2) and the Christian Democrats (2 seats, both gains). While the CD surfed in on a year-long good wave in their public opinion ratings, the Liberals played one trump card and won… that very special card is Marit Paulsen, a well established non-party political debater with a popular touch. The right-wing Moderates and the Left Party stood still with five and three seats respectively. The Social Democrats dropped from seven seats to six. Of those parties which did not get into the European Parliament the Swedish Democrats (nationalist) fared best, followed by the Socialist Justice Party (trotskyist).
The Centre Party has its own EU history. At the referendum in 1994 the party was — and still is — split into two wings, one being liberal EU-positive and the other decentralistic EU-critical. In the EUP-elections of 1995 the party presented two lists; one was headed by a former minister of agriculture Karl-Erik Olsson, while its alternative had the former “No to EU” general Hans Lindqvist as number one. Both lists did well; Karl-Erik and Hans went to Brussels.
As ‘personal’ voting had become an option, the Centre Party decided to have only one list in the 1999 elections. In a members’ ballot Lindqvist topped Olsson; next and with a lot less support than the two EU-parliamentarians came G.Thurdin. The Party Representative Council, however, decided to switch the order — making Thurdin their number one as a ‘middle of the road’ candidate, followed by Olsson at second and Lindqvist at third place. This move irritated the EU-negative members of the Centre movement and today we know that many of them boycotted the EUP-elections. Lindqvist didn’t attract as many personal votes as Olsson, who managed to mobilize the EU-positive Centre members. Thurdin had no chance at all. The Centre Party lost one seat, and the one that they did keep was won by Olsson.
The next big question to deal with is that of EMU. The party’s line is “No to the EMU” and “Yes to an EMU-referendum”. The EMU question — and its answer — could well provide the comeback for a party that has declined from 25% to 5% of electoral support during the last quarter-century.
Patrik Ehn is a member of the Swedish Centre Party