Since the murdered Swedish Prime Minister Olof Palme got up on the back of a lorry in the town called Almedalen in Gotland in Sweden in 1968, each year the Swedish political elite gather in the town for a strange sort of a festival of politics.
Lobbyists, NGOs, quangos, and other politically involved organisations gather there for a week of speeches and mingling. They’ll eat, sleep, dream of politics – and since it’s one of the biggest events of the yearly political calendars, journalists will be there in droves. The national broadcasters will devote hours to talking about the speeches and the events.
The week long event started yesterday, Sunday 2nd July with a speech by the socialist Left leader Jonas Sjöstedt, and over the course of the next eight days over 800 different events will take place. Each day is devoted to one party that’s represented in the Swedish parliament. Yesterday it was the Left party, and today it is the Liberals.
The Almedalen week is quite a unique thing where the barriers between the media bubble and politics break down completely. It has been criticised for being the week when “normal rules of politics don’t apply”. It is very much a media event – an outing for the political journalistic lobby to the fair island of Gotland, a pretty tourist destination.
Participation in the event has more to do with generating headlines, and getting speeches aired on television or analysed in the press. It is not something that particularly engage the masses of voters, although there will be crowds of locals to listen. Most of the people in the audiences will be day-tripping civil servants, party functionaries, and journalists from Stockholm.
Given that the island of Gotland is beautiful most of the year, it’s a nice gig if you can get it, but nothing much will be learned that’s not been known already. Like in most countries, the parties and the politicians will stick to the script. In fact, keeping to the script is even more important this week than at other times, because everybody involved in politics in Stockholm will have decamped to there.
While all events are free to enter, the one section of society who will be very underrepresented are Swedish voters who do not have a salaried position with any of the organisations represented there this week.