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European vignettes, autumn 2014

I was in Glasgow in early September for a conference and was able to stay in Europe to observe two campaigns: the first leading up to the election in Sweden on September 14, and the second to the Scottish referendum on independence four days later. I brought along my camera, and in this section I present my impressions in words and pictures. In the case of Scotland, it will be mainly pictures since Canadians were kept relatively well informed about the campaign and its result. Ideally, it would have been the other way round, since the Swedish campaign was perfect for picture taking, highly public and visible, which was not at all the case in Scotland.

The narrow victory for the “Red-Green coalition” led by the Social Democrats in the Swedish election was also fairly widely reported. What is less known, and what I stress here, is how different a campaign in Sweden is from what we experience in Canada. Not only do Swedes turn out to vote far more (83 per cent this time, compared to 61 per cent in Canada in 2011), but in making their choice they are far more informed about what the parties – all nine of them – stand for.

In Glasgow and Edinburgh, a key question in the discussions was the impact the referendum would have on British politics, specifically on the election to take place in May 2015. The question of how and whether the authorities in the United Kingdom have lived up to the promise of more devolution to Scotland will certainly be raised in that election. But there are also many other issues, some of which – as Eric Shaw, a specialist on the British and Scottish Labour party at the University of Stirling, explains – may keep Labour out of power despite its current lead in the polls.

The question of Catalonia’s status within Spain has also been at issue this fall. Eric Guntermann brings us up to date on developments.

Finally, for a small country, Sweden manages to get our attention frequently as a policy “model.” For many, this was again the case when the newly elected Red-Green government promised to recognize the Palestinian state. But sometimes Sweden gets it wrong. Turn to the book review section for a disturbing portrait by Patrik Öhberg of a notorious recent case of justice derailed.

An introduction by Henry Milner



About the Author

Henry Milner
Henry Milner is co-publisher of Inroads and a political scientist at the Université de Montréal.




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