There are two main news stories in Umeå today:
- the decision of an Umeå parliamentarian not to support a new national governing coalition which would include the far-right nationalist Sweden Democrats
- the reduction in coronavirus restrictions, which comes into force tomorrow, and the covid-related cancellation of Brännbollsyran 2021
The parliamentarian, Helena Lindahl, decided last night that she would vote with her Centre Party to oppose the coalition, which Moderate Party leader Ulf Kristersson is trying to form in the wake of last week’s no-confidence vote in Prime Minister Stefan Löfvén. That Lindahl would make this decision was by no means certain. She has been a renegade in the Centre Party in the past, and said, just some days ago, that she was open to “several different solutions” to the government crisis in Stockholm. Her party leader, Annie Lööf, had ruled out supporting the coalition because she did not want to put what she called the “xenophobic” Sweden Democrats in power.
Lindahl represents not just Umeå, but all of Västerbotten, including rural areas which have considerably more support for the Sweden Democrats than Umeå does. Meanwhile, in the city, major political figures spoke out today about their frustration with the no-confidence vote. Lennart Holmlund, a Social Democrat who was the Chair of Umeå’s Municipal Council for some 20 years, railed against the Left Party for bringing the no-confidence vote to the floor in the first place, in cooperation with the Sweden Democrats. The Left Party has “major responsibility for what happened, including that there might now be a right-wing government which might have the support of, or even include, the Sweden Democrats,” Holmlund blogged in Västerbottens-Kuriren. An Umeå center-right Christian Democratic leader, Veronica Kerr, took issue with Holmlund’s stance, saying that the Left Party had warned the Social Democrats that it would call a no-confidence vote if they didn’t uphold the Left Party’s position on the issue of rental housing prices, the Left’s ostensible reason for its actions. “The Social Democrats and the Left Party have a strange love-hate relationship,” Kerr wrote.
All this matters for Umebor for a number of reasons. First of all, it may very well affect the way that your perceive Lindahl. She wrote that she retreated to a countryside spot and talked with Centre Party leaders before she reached her decision. This means that she probably gave serious consideration to the consequences of both voting for and against putting far-right nationalists in power. But there may have also been a (perhaps) less noble reason for her decision: if Kristersson cannot put together a government, then Lööf might have a chance to try, and the Centre Party — Lindahl’s party — might end up with the Prime Minister’s seat.
What’s also important for Umebor is to pay attention to how the local political party officials are reacting to this crisis. These are the people whom you will vote for or against, and it’s good to try to judge whether their interpretation is genuine, or just an attempt to jockey for political points.
Finally, Lindahl’s decision has made it much less likely that the Sweden Democrats will take power nationally. That means that the many immigrants in Umeå can perhaps breathe a sigh of relief that anti-immigrant sentiment is less likely to swell up in the coming year. On the other hand, if you are one of the statistically few Umebor who oppose immigration, you might be upset with this turn of events.
As for the reduction in coronavirus restrictions, here is how it might affect your life:
• You can start attending large outdoor protests, which are now allowed to include up to 1800 people. For other outdoor events, that number is now 3000. Public indoor events can now have up to 300 people. Sports events like races can have up.to 900 participants. Private parties are allowed up to 50 people indoors and 600 outdoors.
• You’re not encouraged anymore only to spend time with a small circle of friends. That advice has been changed to “stay in a safe environment”, which is to say, meet outdoors and avoid crowding very close to other people indoors for a prolonged period of time.
• Crucially for the restaurant business, most restrictions are withdrawn about seating and opening hours. Eight people are now allowed to dine together indoors at a table. So, you can go out with a group of friends now and enjoy a big meal until late in the evening.
At about the same time that these restrictions were announced, the leaders of Brännbollsyran, the huge yearly concert and world brännboll championships, said that they were cancelling the planned (and already postponed) September 2021 event, citing uncertainty over the coronavirus situation. They said that Brännbollsyran is now scheduled for June 2022, and tickets from the cancelled 2020 and 2021 festivals will be valid for the 2022 event. If you have one of these tickets, you should be getting an email about the situation soon, the organizers wrote.