Demokratiska beslut i coronatider
Digitala verktyg för att ställa om snarare än ställa in
Democratic decisions during Covid-19 – digital tools for adaption
The municipalities provide the bulk of the welfare services in Sweden and depend on local council decisions to be made for the function of the welfare provision. Since the outbreak of the global covid 19-pandemic, the local governments have been forced to find new digital forms for making decisions in a covid-safe maner. In this article, we focus on the municipal council level and explore how they have dealt with the pandemic to be able to make decisions and what implications that might have for the democratic arena and local leadership of municipal councils. From March to November in 2020, we conducted 41 interviews with council chairmen, vice chairmen and local party secretaries. We found that the municipal councils used different strategies to cope with the pandemic including decreasing municipal council size, de-prioritizing matters of political nature, moving to larger meeting rooms and introducing digital meeting participation tools. The introduction of digital meeting tools has according to the interviews challenged the democratic processes in several ways. We found the ability to participate is conditioned by individual competence to handle digital tools and there are differences in individual competences as well as local municipal capacity for digital support. Our conclusion is that there is a need to further support municipalities competences and resources to lead with digital tools. In addition, the study shows demands for more national guidelines and norms on how to manage digital council meetings and sustain local democracy in a digital era.