This year marks the 50th anniversary of Almedalsveckan, the Swedish politics festival in Visby, on the island of Gotland.
The festival is running from 1-8 July, and it is a whole week dedicated to political debate, discussions between parties and a chance for people to meet and talk to the Swedish politicians.
Almedalsveckan came into being in 1968, when Olof Palme held a speech in Almedalen, a park in Visby. Palme was the education minister of Sweden at the time. He was also running for the position of party leader for the Social Democratic party.
It was on 25 July 1968 when Palme made his speech in the park. The moment was improvised, and there were a couple of hundred people at the park who listened.
A political seminar
Since that famous moment, Palme returned to Almedalen for several summers to give more speeches. In 1982, the Social Democrats arranged their first political seminar, and as a result, other political parties started to get involved.
It was no longer merely about making speeches. By hosting seminars, the forum was open for discussion, where the other parties started to take a more active role.
Assassination of Palme
In 1986, on 28 February, Palme was shot while walking home with his wife after an evening at the cinema. He did not survive the shooting. That summer, the only parties attending the political festival in Almedalen were the Green Party and the Left Party.
All the other parties, including the Social Democrats, felt that speeches in Almedalen were too closely associated with Palme. Ingvar Carlsson, Palme’s successor, avoided Almedalen for several years. “I felt that is was Olof Palme’s meeting place,” he told helagotland.se back in 2009.
It was Lisbeth Palme, Olof Palme’s widow, who convinced Carlsson to return to Almedalen. He made his first speech there, as leader of the Social Democrats, in 1991.
Sweden's largest political forum
Today, Almedalsveckan is Sweden’s largest forum for seminars, political speeches and debates. As well as political leaders, attendees include journalists, employees of organisations, lobbyists and entertainers. Tens of thousands of members of the public also attend.
Each day of the week is dedicated to one of the political parties that have representation in the Swedish parliament. Attendance to Almedalsveckan is completely free of charge, including entry to the majority of the events happening during the week.
Criticism for Almedalsveckan
There is some criticism directed towards Almedalsveckan. Some people see it as having become elitist, despite its down-to-earth roots and free entry. Although it is free to attend, the cost of staying in Visby during Almedalsveckan is sky-high, due to the sudden influx of visitors.
An alternative festival
An alternative to Almedalsveckan, Järvaveckan was started in 2016. It is held in Järva, an area in Solna, Northern Stockholm. This year, Järvaveckan was attended by all of the Swedish party leaders and 40 000 visitors.
It is seen as a more sincere and down-to-earth event. However, this year in September there will be a general election. It will be interesting to see if Järvaveckan will continue to have such high attendance in 2019.
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