The Alby Mosque in the Swedish town of Botkyrka broke no laws when it offered 3,000 votes to the Moderate Party in exchange for a building permit for a new mosque, chief prosecutor Alf Johansson at the Office for Corruption has ruled.
Alf Johansson decided to put down two investigations initiated by the police and ruled not to initiate a third one, as "no crime" had occurred. According to Johansson, it is not illegal for the "interested parts" to set political requirements benefiting their own business, the tabloid daily newspaper Expressen reported.
"The vast majority of people in this country have joined forces in political, religious, environmental, sports, humanitarian or other interest groups. Representatives of such associations often state their wishes or make demands on politicians to benefit the association's activities, ranging from concrete issues such as the construction of a sports venue or the preservation of a school to more abstract and vague requests such as the improvement of elderly care," Johansson explained.
Urging the members to vote for a particular party, provided that the party is prepared to meet their interests, doesn't amount to seeking unlawful influence on the election and nor does the declaration of intent to do so, Johansson ruled.
Johansson explained that prosecuting anybody was impossible in this case, adding that it wasn't his job to assess whether the unsuccessful agreement was "politically unethical or otherwise inappropriate."
"It's like a chairman of a sports club calling on the membership to vote for the Center Party because they have promised to build a football pitch for the kids," he explained.
Since pundits such as political scientist Bo Rothstein argued the case was tantamount to "corruption, which proved to have a negative effect on other democracies," the prosecution's lenience triggered the ire of Swedish social media users. While some argued the prosecutor was "either retarded or a political activist, or maybe even both," others ventured that the case would have led to a hullaballoo had other parties, such as the right-wing Sweden Democrats, been involved.
"All else would have been racism," a user wrote wryly.
Shortly before Sweden's general election on September 9, the former leader of the Greens in Botkyrka, Ali Khalil, arranged a secret meeting between the local Mosque leaders and the Moderates, during which his party's rivals were offered several thousand votes from the Muslim community in return for a construction permit for a new mosque. Had the deal come off, it would have resulted in a change of power in the municipality.
Following the scandal, Ali Khalil left his post with the Green Party.