Almedalen, main stage in July 2014
|English name||Almedalen Week|
|Date||July 25, 1968|
|Venue||The western part of Visby town|
|Also known as||Politikerveckan i Almedalen|
|Type||Political, social, business forum|
|Organised by||Gotland Municipality|
The Almedalen Week (Almedalsveckan, also known as Politikerveckan i Almedalen) is an annual event taking place in week 27 in and around Almedalen, a park in the city of Visby on the Swedish island Gotland.
With speeches, seminars and other political activities, it is considered to be the most important forum in Swedish politics. During the week, representatives from the major political parties in Sweden take turns to make speeches in Almedalen.
The origin of the Almedalen Week was the speeches made by Olof Palme during several summers in Almedalen. He was in Visby because he and his family used to spend their summers at Fårö. It started with an improvised gathering that Palme, then education minister and candidate for the position of party leader for the Social Democratic party, and another party leader candidate, Krister Wickman had on 25 July 1968. Palme made his speech from the back of a flatbed truck at Kruttornet by the Almedalen park. The audience was a couple of hundred people.
Because of the origin of the Almedalen Week, Almedalen is sometimes nicknamed "Palmedalen".
The first official Almedalen Week took place in 1982, when the Social Democrats started to organise economic seminars. As a response, the other political parties started to take a more active part. The first time all of the major party leaders were present was in 1982.
In the middle of the 1980s, the week almost ceased to be. In the summer following the assassination of Olof Palme in 1986, only the Green Party and the Left Party were present. The rest of the parties expressed that political speeches in Almedalen were too associated with Palme as a person. Ingvar Carlsson, who became prime minister after Palme's death, said that he chose to hold his speeches at other locations in Visby during the following years out of respect for Palme. He only started speaking in Almedalen after having been persuaded to do so by Palme's widow, Lisbet Palme.
In recent years, the event has grown larger, with hordes of journalists, lobbyists, local and national politicians and representatives of non-governmental organizations all coming to Visby to meet, discuss politics and socialize. As of 2015[update], it is the biggest and most important forum in Sweden for seminars, debates and political speeches on current social issues. In 2014, 3,513 activities were held, 866 journalists were accredited and over 30,000 participants were at the event.
|2006*||463||c. 175||c. 500||n/a|
|2005||250||c. 120||c. 200||n/a|
|* = election year|
Almedalen Week is an annual event taking place in week 27 in and around Almedalen, a park in the city of Visby. It is coordinated by Gotland Municipality and the cost of the different activities is carried by the organization responsible for it. Each day of the week is dedicated to one of the political parties represented in the Riksdag, on a rotating schedule. In 2011, the number of days were extended to eight since there were then eight parties in the Riksdag. A number of other lobbyists, organizations, companies and representatives from municipalities and countries are also present.
With the increasing numbers of activities it has become more difficult for the individual participants to get noticed by spectators and the media. This has resulted in a number of spectacular actions during the years. In 2010, the spokesperson for the Feminist Initiative, Gudrun Schyman, burned SEK 100,000 during a speech about the inequality in wages for men and women. In 2005, actress Kim Anderzon, artist Ernst Billgren, musician Olle Ljungström, among others, declared that a new party, the Kulturpartiet (the Cultural Party), had been created and that they were candidates for the Riksdag. It was later declared that the party had been a elaborate hoax created by the Riksteatern to raise awareness for cultural issues.
Political scientist Maria Wendt have criticized the Almedalen Week and states that it have clarified how much politics in Sweden have become dependent on media, and now conforms to the terms and tools of the press, TV, radio and websites. Wendt says that whereas earlier media would report what went on in politics, it is presently more common to have debates taking place in the media itself. The language and messages delivered by politicians are conformed to fit in the frames provided by TV and newspapers, making comments short, powerful and lacking in nuances. The Almedelen Week is an event where such shortcomings are becoming more visible, according to Wendt. She suggested that instead of dedicating each day to one of the parties, the days should be used to highlight specific issues.
The event as a liminal phase
During the Almedalen Week journalists, politicians and lobbyists socialize in a way that under normal circumstances would not be considered correct. This has been compared to a liminal phase, a term used in social anthropology for when normal rules cease to apply for a short while, like during carnivals, after which everything returns to normal. What has previously been tabu, is allowed for a short while.
Similar events in other countries
Similar events have been held in Denmark and Norway. The Danish event is called the Folkemødet and started in 2011, on Bornholm. A Norwegian version of the week was held at Eidsvoll. The event was scheduled to take place in Arendal again in 2011, but was postponed because of the 2011 Norway attacks. The event is now back. In 2007, a South Korean delegation came to Visby to study the concept of the Almedalen Week. According to political scientist Yonhyok Choe, the island of Jeju is a likely candidate for the event. Finland and the Baltic states have shown interest in having similar events. In 2013, the Arvamusfestival in Estonia was started.
Almedalen Week visitor Dennis Kucinich commented on the event:
When you see the kind of internecine conflict that happens in the United States— the partisan divide, the dichotomous thinking, the separation from each other—there is a different thing happening here in Sweden at Almedalen, which is a sense of a common bond as citizens with a common purpose for the nation. And people come together here. And the thing that impresses me is how quickly on the street you can get into the deepest discussions that have consequence. And so, that’s why—you know, having been here only for two days, I’ve had a chance to meet people from every level of society, decision makers as well as citizens, and there’s a sense that things matter in these kind of discussions, which are direct, relatively low-key, nonconfrontational, matter-of-fact. And behind it is— what animates it is a sense of commitment to each other and to the nation.
Speakers at Almedalen Week
2013 - Jimmie Åkesson
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- "Världen följer efter" [The world follows suit]. www.almedalsveckan.info (in Swedish). Gotland Municipality. Retrieved 8 February 2015.
- "Estonia – Civil society". www.freedomhouse.org. Freedom House. Retrieved 6 February 2015.
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- Wendt, Maria (2012). Politik som spektakel – Almedalen, mediemakten och den svenska demokratin [Politics as a spectacle – Almedalen, the power of the media and the Swedish democracy] (in Swedish). Stockholm: Atlas. ISBN 978-91-7389-409-8.
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