Palme killing: can Sweden get over its trauma?

After 34 years, Sweden's Prosecution Authority has named a suspect in the assasination of Swedish Prime Minister Olof Palme: Stig Engström, a politically right-wing hobby marksman whose name came up repeatedly in the investigation. He committed suicide in 2000. The investigation will now be closed. Commentators recall Palme and discuss the ramifications of the investigation's results.

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Helsingin Sanomat (FI) /

Only time can heal the wounds

Despite the fact that the investigation has been closed, for most Swedes the case is not over, Helsingin Sanomat believes:

“Perhaps Engström really did pull the trigger. It may be that he had no helpers. ... But none of this has been proven. So it's hard to believe that the words pronounced on Wednesday will be enough for many Swedes to put the case behind them. Palme's murder was often referred to in Sweden as a national wound or trauma which could only be cured if the case were solved. ... This wound will continue to heal thanks to the oldest medicine available, namely time. The police have been unable to achieve this.”

Aftonbladet (SE) /

Democracy is stronger

Aftonbladet recalls that a new Swedish government was formed on the very night of the murder:

“In retrospect this night appears to be the ultimate proof of the strength of Swedish democracy. And of the competence and loyalty of this generation of politicians in face of the task at hand. If today's announcement means that the murder of Olof Palme can now merely be documented without any hope of being solved, there is nevertheless much that will remain alive. The legacy of Palme the politician, of course. The murder remains an open wound. Many are dissatisfied that the police and authorities failed to find the murderer. But events also show the strength of a democracy which derives its legitimacy from popular movements and social responsibility.”

Süddeutsche Zeitung (DE) /

At last an admission that mistakes were made

Public prosecutor Krister Petersson deserves praise, writes the Süddeutsche Zeitung:

“He was the one who - after 34 years - finally summoned the courage to tell the public clearly: the police have made serious mistakes. We have failed to bring the murderer to justice. The mistakes can no longer be corrected because there are still open questions that can probably never be answered: Was Engström a lone killer or did he have accomplices? What was his motive? Did he plan the murder or was it the spontaneous act of a mentally ill gun nut? ... It is to be hoped that the police and the public in Sweden will now at least thoroughly investigate how this unsatisfactory result came about.”

De Volkskrant (NL) /

Admired and hated

De Volkskrant recalls the former Swedish prime minister:

“Palme was a politician of his time, admired by the left for his fight against injustice in the world, loathed by the right for his moral finger-wagging, his controversial support for Yasser Arafat's PLO, and his kind words for Cuban dictator Fidel Castro. ... Olof Palme was a brilliant intellectual who was also held in high esteem by social democratic workers. But he could be arrogant and offend opponents with his sharp tongue. That's why he was hated by many on the right.”

El Mundo (ES) /

Undogmatic role model

The conservative daily El Mundo praises Palme for his moderate political style:

“Palme influenced an entire generation of left-wing politicians, including Felipe González in Spain. Swedish social democracy was a mirror in which we could see our own reflection and an argument for overcoming the ideological dogmatism that soaked the 20th century in blood. It renounced Marxism and accepted a redistributive social liberalism that combined capitalist development as a source of wealth with strong social protection.”