Despite wall-to-wall coverage in Swedish TV, the hearings by the Constitutional Committee of the Swedish parliament haven’t really led to large scale political repercussions yet.
One reason may be that the Swedes are more interested in alpine skier Anja Pärson’s performance in the on-going Olympic Winter Games, another that the Swedish political landscape is fairly stable on the parliamentary level.
Ministers in the Witness Booth
Ministers Leni Björklund (defense), Carin Jämtin (overseas aid) and Ylva Johansson (health care) made fairly low-profile appearances during their sessions. Johansson faces the toughest PR-battle as she went on holiday abroad with her family two days after the tsunami had struck.
The questioning of Lars Danielsson from the Prime Minister’s Office and Hans Dahlgren from the Foreign Ministry attracted more interest as the two gentlemen were at the centre of the administrative bungle that delayed the Swedish response to the disaster.
On Thursday, Prime Minister Göran Persson and Foreign Minister Laila Freivalds appeared in the committee. Both ministers were heavily criticised for passivity during the early stages of the distaster. Freivalds in particular has been singled out as the most likely political victim.
A short summary of Svenska Dagbladet’s coverage of Freivalds’ appearance can be illuminating. The journalist describes Freivalds as appearing “cool and seemingly untouched” by events and her statement of her case as “an almost mechanical repetition of previous declaration”. Character assasination, Swedish style. (It should be noted that even Dagens Nyheter is kinder to Freivalds)
While Freivalds generally supported her staff, Göran Persson was more assertive and criticised some central managers in the Foreign Ministry.
What, if any, political effects the hearnings will have is difficult to say. Back in December, the Green Party, which is one of the parties supporting the government, declared that Foreign Minister Leila Freivalds should resign and the party’s spokesman Peter Eriksson repeated this position today. On the other hand, Eriksson did not say if the Green Party would support a motion of no confidence against the Foreign Minister.