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Sunday, 17 April 2011

How a young woman's blog post is changing the Swedish elections

I'm in Sweden this week as part of my ongoing work to help develop a progressive blogosphere outside of the US, and have had the unique opportunity to follow the Swedish national elections, which are taking place this Sunday. While, like much of Europe, Sweden has a flurry of political parties from left to right, the two main contenders in the upcoming election are the conservative Prime Minister, Fredrik Reinfeldt, and his progressive opponent, Mona Sahlin.

While Sweden was an early contender in using the Net for politics in the late 90s, the Swedish Netroots is a relatively recent phenomenon. And like the states, the left side of the blogosphere seems to be kicking more butt in Sweden than the right. One likely reason is that in Sweden, like the US, the right-wing has long had its own echo chamber, while the left did not. 13 of the nation's newspapers lean left, while 59 lean right. The Swedish left-wing blogosphere fills a very real need, and is already having some early, and significant, successes.

The latest, and possibly most interesting, success of the Swedish Netroots (they use the same term as us, "Netroots") took place just two days ago. A young Swedish woman named Emilie wrote a blog post about her mother losing her health insurance. In Sweden, there's a national health plan that covers your living expenses if you lose your job due to failing health. While Emilie's mom has been certified unable to work by her doctors, the government functionaries running the national plan didn't believe her, and just cut off her benefits. Emilie wrote that she and her mother are now considering selling their home, as it's the only way they can be eligible for any more government benefits.

Up until now, Emilie's blog didn't get a lot of traffic. She'd only written three posts in September, four in August, and seven in July. But this post was different. Within a few hours, it started to travel around the Web, and within a day, it had already been shared over 20,000 times on Facebook. By last night, only a day after Emilie wrote her post, the national evening news in Sweden had Emilie and her mother as their top story (see video upper left). By the next morning, it was a front page story in the largest national paper, is now hitting the radio and the wire services, and is the subject of a Facebook page and a viral video poking fun at the Prime Minister. The media then tried to ask the Prime Minister about the story, and he reportedly fled in order to avoid giving an answer.

All of this because of a relatively small blogger's single post about her mother.

Health care is the number one election issue in Sweden, according to the polls. And the conservative ruling party, until now, has been able to effectively avoid the issue all together in the campaign. Then Emilie struck, and now health care is quickly becoming the top election story in the Swedish news, only 48 hours before the election.

Pretty cool 48 hours for a young girl and her blog.

PS A funny aside to the story. Emilie's blog is called "KLAMYDIABREVET", or, Chlamydia Letter. A Chlamydia Letter in Sweden is the letter the government sends to inform you that someone you've slept with has an STD, and thus you need to be tested. What's ironic about the story going viral is that the Swedish Prime Minister, in a very real way, just got his own Chlamydia Letter only 48 hours before the most important election of his life.

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