The organizer boasts that all the events are free to attend. And in the spirit of Swedish “walk up and talk to the prime minister”-democracy, the event is in a way “open”. But let’s not kid ourselves. The fact is that the political system along with its media, civil society and business entourage is travelling to an island with 65000 inhabitants and no way near the capacity to host this crowd – meaning that the accommodation and travel costs are simply impossible for anyone without a strong backer or deep pockets to attend. It is exclusiveness through inclusiveness if you will.
This can also be seen in the programme and walking through the streets of Visby. The political parties have a sacred space – the park Almedalen, and each party have their day in the sun – literally, but the rest of the high visibility figures are commercial/national media outlets and consultancy firms. The further away from the central area you move the smaller the organisations become. Ending, sadly, in complete obscurity with the human rights watch.
With one obvious exception, the municipality of Botkyrka made it their mission to at least themselves be inclusive. Inviting the local NGOs, social entrepreneurs and citizen in a format they call Pop-Up Municipality. Instead of hosting seminars that no one would attend on the challenges of dental care in the Stockholm suburbs they invited the second generation migrants, the civil society and local institutions to attend and present their view on whatever they wanted in Almedalen. Pushing all their funds towards the location and very little on speakers they ended up with a venue in the city square of Visby (Donnerska Palatset) presenting everything from the local football club IFK Tumba Fotboll to the coffee luxury brand Johan & Nyström to Multicultural centre running a seminar on the defintion on interculturalism. And with the grand finale basically creating a street party with Redline Records (notorious Swedish HipHop-R&B label) turning the medieval square into a block party worthy of Fittja, Alby and Norsborg.
So, is there democracy in Almedalen? Yes, for the privileged – and for the citizens of Botkyrka.