April 18. 2024. 9:05

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Swedish PM, majority shaken by gender identity law

Swedish Prime Minister Ulf Kristersson risks losing the support of his own parliamentary group and the ruling coalition over a controversial gender identity bill that has exposed divisions on both sides of the aisle.

Over the weekend, a growing rift within Sweden’s ruling majority widened to unprecedented levels over a new law on gender identity, with the Christian Democrats and the far-right Sweden Democrats opposing the bill backed by the prime minister.

Sweden is governed by a centre-right coalition of the Moderates (EPP), Christian Democrats (EPP), and Liberals (Renew Europe), supported by the far-right Sweden Democrats (ECR), who stayed out of government in exchange for implementing their migration policy.

The bill, supported by Kristersson’s party, the Moderates and the Liberals, would, among other things, lower the age limit for those wishing to change their legal gender to 16 and would no longer require a medical diagnosis.

Not everyone in Kristersson’s party supports the bill, which represents a rare and significant split in the Moderates’ ranks.

“Compared to recent decisions that have mobilised the party unanimously, such as the decision to join NATO, this gender identity bill is one of the biggest sources of resistance within the Moderate Party in recent years,” a source close to the Swedish Liberals told Euractiv.

They added, “Perhaps three-quarters of the party’s MPs are against it, despite the prime minister’s insistence.”

Beyond the prime minister’s own party, the issue has split the ruling coalition and brought the Christian Democrats closer to the far-right Sweden Democrats.

“The Swedish Tax Agency has concluded that it will cost money to implement. This means that it is a budget initiative, and the budget will be negotiated within the current coalition cooperation,” said Michael Rubbestad, deputy leader of the Sweden Democrats in the Swedish parliament.

“My view is that this is not something we will support,” he said, adding that diagnosis being abolished and instead being based on self-identification is “worrying”.

For Christian Carlsson, the Christian Democrat chairman of the Social Affairs Committee, the problem is mainly fiscal and administrative.

“When you change gender, you get a new gender-coded social security number. If you change back later, you get a third one,” he said, adding that the Swedish Bankers’ Association had previously opposed this because the issue of how to track changes in personal identity numbers had not been resolved and could lead to easier financial fraud.

For the Liberals, however, the issue is clear.

“I don’t see it as a huge thing for the state to make this change, but it means a lot to a vulnerable minority,” said Lina Nordquist, leader of the Liberal Party group in the Swedish parliament.

On the other side of the aisle, the prime minister and his Liberal allies should not take for granted the support of the progressive Social Democrats, who have yet to reveal their strategy.

“I don’t want to speculate on what we will do if the government does this or that,” said Fredrik Lundh Sammeli, the Social Democrats’ group leader on the Social Affairs Committee, a few months ago.

The vote in parliament will take place on 17 April, with the Christian Democrats and the Swedish Democrats still hoping to stop the proposal.

(Charles Szumski | Euractiv.com)

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