Lars Ohly. Photo: Vansterpartiet
Lars Ohly claims he wants to create “the best welfare system in the world”, and in order to do this he wants to increase taxes, also for people with ordinary incomes. However, when compromising with his potential coalition partners (the Social democrats and the Greens) he had to surrender most of the increased taxes. During the TV-interview he was mostly loyal with the compromise agreements but he also said on a few occasions that he would have liked to go further.
One point in the joint red-green agreement is to withdraw all Swedes military forces from Afghansistan, something Ohly defended in the interview. He claims that the military presence increases the support for the talibans and the risk for the aid workers.
The question whether the parental leave shall be divided equally between the parents by law has been a hot topic. Te red-greens have no joint agreement on the topic but the Left party wants to legislate to make it compulsory to divide equally – if the parents want to use all the parental leave months.On the question whether women should have to stop breast feeding the babies earlier, Ohly said that they could use a breast pump. This was a controversial statement with has amused some and irritated others. The center-right coalition did not loose any time to make political use of it. Ohly also had difficulties explaining his former proposal that football players should get special tax cuts. Ohly is well-known for his interest in football and supportership for the Stockholm club Djurgården.
Ohly and the Left Party are by some considered a burden for the red-green alliance and their chances to win the election. Perhaps it is true. Ohly might scare away some right leaning Social democrats and the middle class who fear he will regulate their lives and raise their taxes. But the Social democrats and the Greens would face severe difficulties to collect a majority without the Left party, so they would have to engage in negotiations anyway after an election win.
The Left party is a leftist socialist party which was a communist party during the Soviet time, even Stalinist further back. They were Soviet loyalists to such an extreme that “funny stories” were told about how their former leaders where seen wearing rain coats in a sunny Stockholm because it was raining in Moscow. Not true of course, but their policies were for a long time dictated from Moscow.
In 1990 they dropped the word 'communist' in the name and have since then been named just ‘the Left party’. During the 90s they reached their biggest success ever with 12 percent in the 1998 election. Communism had been replaced with attacks against budget cuts, feminism and EU-criticism under the leadership of Gudrun Schyman. Between 1996 and 2006 they cooperated in parliament with the Greens and the Social democratic minority government. Now they are for the first time aiming at participating in a government themselves; if the three red-green parties collects a majority of the votes on September 19 this will be reality.
The history of the Left party is one reason why many voters to the right, but also some Social democrats, refuse to accept the party as a democratic counterpart. They claim the Left party has not really confronted their past and that they still have the same core values. This is hard to understand for many young voters who do not remember the cold war and mostly associates the Left Party with soft values domestically and international solidarity on the global level.
The Left party refused to leave Soviet’s side until the very end and much later they sent solidarity greetings to the communist party on Cuba. The chairman Lars Ohly called himself a communist until 2006. When it comes to practical policymaking they are however an ordinary leftist European socialist party.
Stockholm News will cover all the seven parties in the Swedish parliament (Riksdagen) in different articles before the September 19 election