At three o’ clock in the afternoon two days ago they were standing there, the new head of Malmoe Municipal Council, Katrin Stjernfeldt Jammeh, Social Democrat, and Anja Sonesson who’s in local opposition, but belonging to the major party, The Moderate Party/The Conservatives in the now ruling government here in Sweden. In the first picture above you see Katrin Stjernfeldt-Jamme to the left and Anja Sonesson to the right. One year from now there’s the next national election, something we have every fourth year in Sweden. These two local top politicians now met for a debate about the status and future of the city, at least according to political rhetoric and goals. The title of the debate was “Vart är Malmö på väg?”/Where is Malmoe heading?” It was arranged by the newspaper Sydsvenskan/The South Swede, and the debate leader was the reporter Elin Fjellman Jaderup. One had chosen to have the debate in the premises of Moderna Muséet/The Modern Museum at Gasverksgatan 22 in the central parts of town. I arrived ca 45 minutes before the debate started, because they only had 100 seats, and the late-comers couldn’t get in, but either had to leave or stand in the doorway or outside the room. The audience mainly consisted of middle-aged people, but also some younger.
The three main topics for the day were some of the most common: school, jobs and integration. When the Social Democrats came to power again in 1994, after a few years of conservative-neo-liberal rule, Malmoe municipality had a budget deficit of more than a billion kronor. After the 1994-election the parties began to if possible co-operate over the socialist-green and conservative-neo-liberal borders. They managed to – in part – create improvements in the city which then still was a rather grey industry city, with industries closing down or on decay. The Öresund bridge between Malmoe, Sweden and Copenhagen, Denmark was built in the 1990’s. Then Malmoe University was founded and began competing with the long established Lund University nearby. The fashionable Western Harbour was constructed with the 190 meter high Turning Torso, a modern, attractive suburb near the water. Also a tidying up of many parts of town was made. Squares, plazas, bridges and quarters were improved and re-designed with illuminations, sculptures, green areas, cafés, bike paths etc. The latest was the City tunnel for enhancing the rail-way traffic and completed two years ago. However, Malmoe is also very segregated. When Stjernfeldt-Jammes’ predecessor, Ilmar Reepalu, (S), became Head of the Municipal Council in 1994 he said that he would end the segregation. He became a pensioner this summer and was replaced by Stjernfeldt-Jamme. Today the gap between people and different parts of town is even wider than in 1994.
The Conservative-liberal Alliance, which in Malmoe only consists of The Moderate Party/The Conservatives and The People’s Party the Liberals have for several years critisized the Social Democrats for not having been able to improve the situation for the school. The results between the “finer” areas in town and the more less fortunate ones are huge. Also the School Inspection has criticized the situation harshly. The social problems are immense. But also ca 45% of this city’s population has another mother tounge than Swedish. The city is filled with islamophobia, racist attacks on black people, on Muslims, antisemitic attacks on Jews and Anti-Israel values, antizigani attacks on Romanies etc. 15,2 % of the Malmoe population are unemployed, compared to 8,5% in Sweden generally. In May 2011 it was less than 9%. The youth unemployment is almost 26%, and for people who have immigrated 28,3%. When the Social Democrats and the Green Party in May 2011 launched “Jobboffensiv för hela Malmö”/Job strategy for all of Malmoe” the Newspaper Sydsvenskan later found distinct corruption in it. High Social Democratic party members had contacted company owners and department bosses in order to help unemployed relatives, friends and party loyals. There was also lots of unsalaried work, and suspicion of bribery in some cases. Some officials were forced to leave their posts, while others who had been involved were allowed to stay, probably because of the “right contacts”.
The debate then? Both Katrin Stjernfeldt-Jamme and Anja Sonesson are trained politicians. On several of the topics they had fairly similar views, even if the ideological differences were there. It was quite clear from the audience reactions that Katrin Stjernfeldt-Jamme had most sympathizers present. When Sonesson criticized the Social Democrats for not having been able to improve the school situation, Stjernfeldt-Jamme replied that neither had the government side. Also the behaviour of certain politicians were used to hit on each other, and both said that one shouldn’t make party politics of common ground, which both of them actually did sometimes. Sonesson was one of the politcians who had been participating in the manifestation against Afro-phobia the day before at Möllevångstorget/The Mill-field Square. She had found it awkward that her party had been harshly critisized for that phenomenon by some speakers, while that racism wasn’t part of her party’s views.
When it comes to co-operation over the ideological borders both said that they keep the doors open for many different constellations, within limits. The Moderate Party/Conservatives can’t co-operate with the Left Party (the former Communist Party), but with the Social Democrats and the Environment Party the Green in some issues, while Katrin Stjernfeldt-Jamme said that she prefers her present red-green alliance, but in some cases might co-operate with the Conservative-Liberal side. Both of them said that they intend to keep the Sweden Democrats at bay, which have Nazi roots. When the reporter Elin Fjellman Jernerup asked them questions concerning the labour-market the two adversaries had slightly different views and solutions, but the Conservatives now suggest a fifth job tax reduction for employers, while the red-green opposition on a national level want other solutions. She also critisized the government for not been reducing the unemployment rate. They also were asked questions about the connection between house-building and rents to employment, high salary and attractiveness for the city. Unemployed and poor people are often neglected. Where and how should one build to create new houses and flats, and create a better infrastructure? Sonesson put much focus on making Malmoe more attractive for the wealthy people, and bigger companies. “It’s important with good service so that those who pay lots of taxes wish to live here”, she said. Sonesson and Stjernfeldt-Jamme had some different views on traffic. Sonesson wants to improve the situation for cars to come to companies and flats in the city, while Stjernfeldt-Jamme wants to focus on greener solutions: make it cheaper and easier to go by train and busses, and bikes. On the final questions about their views of Malmoe in 2032 they had rather similar ideas: They both want Malmoe to be inventive and popular, a modern and aware city which is a Mecca for entrepreneurs, creative people, families and companies. Also new, attractive buildings and areas. That is the political vision, and I do not doubt that part of that will be realised. The social wellfare and care for people is also important. That same Sunday which the debate was held we had election to who would be in the Swedish church boards. The Sweden Democrats had said that they wanted to use that election to get a stronger foothold in the political landscape. When they became part of the Swedish Parliament in 2010 a new law was passed by the other Parliament parties which said that Sweden is a multi-cultural nation, in order to oppose their racist agenda. Lots of information about the church election was spread on social media recently, mainly to oppose the Sweden Democrats in the election. I was one of those many who went to church two days ago to make my contribution. Long queus were seen outside the churches all day all over Sweden. The Social Democrats got 32%, the Green party made a fairly good election, The Conservatives ended on 22% and the other parties in the Alliance receded. The Sweden Democrats got 6% in the church election. I for one will continue struggling for a good society and dignified humanity according to my mid-ideology. We’ll see what the future will be for the city I live in, the country as a whole, and for our world.
Anders Moberg, September 17th 2013