Sweden, NATO and democracy

Let’s start with democracy:

According to Wikipedia, one of the key elements of democracy is ‘…day-to-day decision making of democracies is the majority rule…’. Another article, this time from an Oxford dictionary, mentions a democracy to be ‘…a system of government by the whole population or all the eligible members of a state, typically through elected representatives…’.

In short, in a democracy is it either the direct majority of the population that rules or the population outsources the decision-making to a selected group of suitable representatives. These representatives are chosen by means of general elections.

The former variety will by definition always follow the will of the people, at least if all voters turn up and cast their vote. The latter variety – the chosen representatives – may not be the will of the people. It may in most cases, but in others it will not. The reason for this is obvious, many issues are decided upon by the chosen representatives without asking their voters for their opinion for each and every decision. Many countries have devised a combination of the two that allows the elected representatives of government to ask the opinion of the people in certain cases by means of a referendum. But, it is still up to the representatives to decide on what question to do such a referendum.

Of course, there’s quite a bit more to it. Otherwise, in its pure form, a majority religious party could, supported by democratic principles, make another religious party illegal, and in doing so engage in democratic-sanctioned genocide.

Is NATO a democratic organization:

While we all might suspect, hope, and assume an organization such as NATO would be based on democratic principles, it has become abundantly clear that this is not the case – at all. When Finland and Sweden recently decided that their long-time independance of military alliances had to be reconsidered and the governments of both countries decided (without asking the people first) to immediately join the military alliance, most members unconditionally welcomed their decision. Others however did not. And, as it turned out, only one Naj sayer could block countries from joining. In this case, it was Turkey and Hungary that blocked both Finland and Sweden from joining the club.

Here’s why.

Let me share how Wikipedia describes the political state in Turkey:

Turkey is a presidential representative democracy
and a constitutional republic
within a pluriform multi-party system

This sure sounds nice, but as we know, a Wiki article is not about providing a critical view of a government or a country. In this case, we need to hold the description above against reality and recent facts.

Turkey, represented by mister Erdogan, vetoed Finland and Sweden to be new NATO members due to the ‘fact’ that these countries were harboring terrorists. Dang, here we go again, the T-word surfaced once more. You can read more about the T-word here and here.

The word terrorists should perhaps be explained a bit more here. While we in Sweden and many other countries think of our political adversaries as healthy competition and a typical component of a democratic society, other countries like to describe them as terrorists. The reason for this is that it makes it so much clearer for the international community that they are not only political opponents but are to be wiped off the face of the earth, preferably by all means available. I consider Turkey and its leader mr Erdogan to be one of the aforementioned ‘other countries.

During meets and talks between the Swedish and Turkish governments, initially, a guideline was presented that dictated the measures to be taken by Sweden in order to meet the qualification criteria for Turkey to change the Naj to a Jay on the general assembly of NATO. Sweden did as it always does, it was kind and promised to look into things, knowing that the variety of democracy as applied in Sweden differs greatly from the Turkish variety.

Whilst the judicial system in Sweden is fully independent of the government, in Turley this might be less so. As such, extraditions of what Turkey described as terrorists harbored by Sweden are not decided upon by the government but by the court system – the independent court system.

Sweden promised to look into extraditing members of Turkish political organizations residing in Sweden to Turkye, knowing that this was not up for the government to decide. The court had a look and said Naj. This of course did not please mr Erdogan a bit so he adjusted his requirements and expanded greatly on his initial demands. By that time, the Swedish government had been changed due to elections that take place every fourth year like clockwork. For once, there was a change of government (this does not happen too often). The new government picked up where the old had left off and started working with the new set of demands. Some laws were changed – where is the influence of other less democratic countries in a normal democracy described? –

But how about Hungary?

This country was on its own probably never going to stop the NATO membership for Sweden. They merely joined any country opposing it – and were probably very glad when Turley did. The reason for their opposition can be the negative press and opinion Hungary has received under its current leadership.

The Hungarian implementation of democracy has been described as ‘…The Economist Intelligence Unit rated Hungary a flawed democracy in 2020. With a democracy score of 3.96/7, Freedom House no longer considers Hungary a democracy…’, again by wikipedia just stating facts. Sweden was quite vocal in calling out Hungary when freedoms diminished and EU and democratic values were recalled.

Forget Hungary, they need elections, free elections.

Sweden can join NATO – or can it?

Anyway, a few days prior to writing this, mr Erdogan announced that progress had been made and he was prepared to welcome Sweden as a new MATO member. Of course, under the cover, there had been some persuasion from the USA promising to negotiate a military airplane deal for Turkey. Notice the promises here – no statements or facts. ‘I will do this…’, ‘I promise to do that…’.

In the case of the USA, president Biden promised planes: In reality, this deal still has to be approved by a very hostile House of Representatives and Senate first. For mr Erdogan’s sudden swing in opinion: His government and parliament still have to vote on the matter after their summer recess, see y’all in September (remember this, we are now only in July, September is months away)

Extra-democratic activities:

In January of 2023, a dummy (no pun intended) representing mr Erdogan was hung up in the center of Stockholm, causing an international crisis between the countries. This obviously did not improve progress on Turkey’s stand on joining NATO – au contraire.

Whilst Sweden already had seen a few Quran burnings and had observed its effects in countries such as Turkey, anyone with a grudge against Turkey or NATO now knew what to do. Where extreme right activist mr Paludan had already done a few, he now suddenly had followers! These followers may or may not share his extremist views, but now had the means to cancel out democracy by playing the hand of the Turkish opinion that strongly disliked the burning of Qurans to continue unpunished.

Personally, I strongly oppose any actions ridiculing the faith of others. This includes the burning of Qurans or other holy scriptures. This act does not make any other statement than that you strongly dislike a large group of people that you likely never even met. But in democratic Sweden there’s no law against it and it therefore cannot be forbidden. Courts have made it clear that the law allows it. At the same time, there are other laws and stipulations that could be used to forbid doing so publically – they were not explored or used. Making fire in public in the middle of summer could be one.

Now what!

Given that Turkey may start deciding about allowing Sweden to join NATO could be as late as September, perhaps October, there’s ample opportunity for activists to pick dates and start foraging holy books to burn. We’ve now seen above that a small group of people can jeopardize the democratic process, stopping a country to decide what they think is good for them.

Given that goodwill and trust are of no help in situations like this, perhaps the Swedish government should start thinking about measures against protest actions that unproportionally disturb a democratic process. A former Swedish Attorney General, mr Bodström, already lined out the possibility for the Justice Department to devise a stipulation to render actions such as Quran burnings illegal in the national press.

Seen in a democratic light, I do find such a stipulation more democratic than allowing continued upsetting of large parts of the religious world, including large parts of the Swedish people. Not to speak of the ability to block an important process by only a few persons – that is undemocratic!

 

Paul, 2023-07

Sources:

 

Editorial comments:

After Iraqi religious leader Muqtada al-Sadr’s call to his followers to do something about the burning of Qurans in Sweden, the Swedish embassy in Bagdad is stormed and occupied. Notably, this invasion was done after a threat of a new burning that did not take place. Additionally, within Iraq it was called for to no longer engage in any business with Swedish companies.

Meanwhile, it was revealed in Swedish media that the most recent Quran burning was executed by an Iraqi citizen, waiting to receive a permanent residential permit for Sweden. As this person already had one Swedish conviction for violent behavior, it seems not unlikely to assume that his Quran action was inspired by the idea that he could no longer be extradited to Iraq after that, something that seems reasonable considering earlier court cases of similar nature.

Once again, a single individual is able to seriously disrupt the relationship between democratic Sweden and another country, in this case Iraq.

 

Paul, 2023.07-21
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On 2023-07-28, the Swedish government announces a review of the temporary residence permit issued previously to the Stockholm-based Iraqi Quran burner. This has been done previously in other cases where the residence permits of convicted criminals were revoked by the authorities. In all of these cases, the higher courts decided that extradition would jeopardize the life and health of these individuals and revoked extradition. This leaves such persons in status quo as they do not have a permit to stay but cannot be thrown out either.

Meanwhile, a member of the government supporting political party SD (Sverige Demokrater), sees it fit to publish inflammatory statements in social media.

Let it be noted that all of this has led to strong reactions in the Islamic world. The current government is scolded for not acting against these highly insulting acts against Islam. Even the political opposition is critical. But during the previous administration – the current opposition – the then government allowed public opinion in the Islamic world to go wild over alleged cases where small children were taken from Islamic parents to be fostered in other Christian families. One could easily conclude that none of the political parties having governed Sweden in recent years have handled this situation well. When social media are used to distort facts, the various Swedish governments have made statements of freedom of opinion and expected the storm to go away – they do not.

At the same time, the Swedish state police announce that the risk of a terrorist attack by a domestic terrorist has increased considerably. I wrote earlier about this here:

And of course, my fictional book The Deep about the sabotage of the Nordstream pipelines handles this subject.

New applications of burning religious artifacts for various religions have been made. I have a distinct feeling that the last word has not been written in this saga…

 

Paul, 2023.07-29
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