CGN-blog

2021-02-20 Sarajevo Party

Photographer: Ulf Berglund 
Wilhelm Agrell and other SP-members during a press conference during European Parliament elections 1994/95

In 1995, Sweden became an EU-member state after a popular referendum in 1994 (52,3 % voted in favour, 46,8 % voted against, and 0,8 % voted blank, while the voting participation was around 83%). During 1994, the third European Parliament democratic elections were held. Because of Sweden’s association process, the EP elections were held in Sweden in 1995. There were more than 30 parties who participated during the elections. One of them was Sarajevolistan (Sarajevo Party, literally meaning Sarajevo List). 

Elections

The party did not manage to get a seat in the EP. Sarajevo Party (SP) received only around 1% of the votes. At the same time, the party was considered as having a lot of attention and publicty in the media concerning its size and agenda. 

Several of its members were individuals with positions in the daily media and culture sector in Sweden. Also, the party included Sarajevo in its name while the war in Bosnia was still going on. An aspect many Swedes could recognise and refer to during the 1990s.

The main reason for the party’s creation was “a protest against EU:s and UN:s policies in Bosnia”. For example, the party stated that “the war in Bosnia is also about the EU:s heart” and that “we want to work for the EU holding up the values and principles that the EU once came up to protect: respect for international law, for human rights, pluralism, tolerance, defence of democracy, of rule-of-law”.

Party 

Members 

  • Per Svensson. One of the leading members who took the initiative to create the SP. Svensson has been working as a columnist and liberal opinion-maker in daily newspapers as Sydsvenskan and Dagens Nyheter. 
  • Wilhelm Agrell. Is a professor in political science at Lund University with a focus on warfare, security and intelligence. He was of the main candidates for SP during the EP-elections. 
  • Sigrid Rausing. The main financial sponsor of the party. When the party was created, Sigrid was among the world’s wealthiest individuals (Tetra Pak family) and gave 320 000 Swedish Krona (today around 430 000 SEK or 45 000 Euros)  for one million ballot papers. 
  • Bibbi Andersson. Actress, famous for several movies, including those created by Ingmar Bergman. She was also the initiator behind “Artister för fred” (Artists for peace) and a play called Open Road – Sarajevo. 
  • Christina Elisabet Doctare is a doctor, writer and has a background as a conservative opinion-maker. She was the first battalion level doctor in the Swedish military UN-peacekeeping operation when she participated during the Bosnian war. In 2019 when Peter Handke received the Nobel Prize in literature, Doctare renounced her own Nobel Peace prize medal in a sign of protest against the Nobel Stiftelsen choice of Handke who during the 1990s and 2000s supported Milosevic’s regime in Yugoslavia/Serbia and has denied the genocide in Srebrenica. 

From a rapport about democracy statistics from 2007, Agrell as the SP candidate was more popular and known for voters in Sweden than several other candidates from political parties represented in the Swedish parliament. 

Agenda 

Here are the following examples of SP:s agenda: 

  • EU:s enlargement eastward as concerning Poland and Estonia 
  • Abolishment of veto right concerning foreign and security policy 
  • More humane and generous refugee policy 
  • Stopping the war in Bosnia by military intervention 
  • Organising Bosnia as a democratic state and multiethnic society 

EP-elections 1995 

  • The party received in total around  1,0 procent of the votes (26 875) 
  • SP had the best results in Lund’s university town in southern Sweden (4,4 %) and Stockholm (2,7%). 
  • In accordance with laws on voting and financial money from the Swedish budget, SP had the right to receive public money for the elections in 1999 but declined its participation. 

In 1995, many left-wing oriented opinion-makers, politicians, networks were negative towards SP, also by calling it “Sarajevoligan” (Sarajevo League) in a criminal sense. The main part of “anti-imperalist” left-wing criticism was that SP was promoting warfare, NATO:s imperialism, and a “black-white” understanding of Bosnia’s war. One parliament member from the Left-Party (former Left-Party Communists), Rolf  L Nilson, wrote in the left-wing paper Veckobladet that he would not vote for SP sympathised with their agenda and that it was important for the European left to work for EU as a peace and social project. 

Additional facts and insights 

  • SP was created as an inspiration from a similar initiative in France. 
  • According to political scientist Andreas Johansson Heinö (who voted for SP in 1995), during the EP elections, the SP had an “an open goal” since the leading social-democratic candidate Maj Britt Theorin (with a “hard Euroskeptic”, against the EU profile) condemned NATO:s bombardment against Bosnian Serb military facilities and units in Bosnia. Heinö also wrote that “SP was “cultural pages’ (media) so far the only contribution to Swedish politics” and he personally voted for the SP.  
  • Social-democratic politician Tommy Raodberg wrote in 2012 that Sarajevolistan “was a left-wing party for the cultural elite (in Sweden)” and that he had always voted for the social-democrats except in 1994 when he voted for the People’s Party (Liberal Party) and SP in 1995. 
  • Criticism: SP and its agenda were criticised mainly by left-wing oriented actors as those with “anti-imperialist” profile who argued, among other things, that NATO, EU and USA started the war in Yugoslavia and Bosnia and that the SP was promoting Western imperialism. 
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