Sweden's culture minister has resigned, the second cabinet member to leave the Swedish government in two days. Cecilia Stego Chilo [pictured] said her failure to pay her television licence fee for 16 years and the fact that she had not paid employer taxes when taking on a nanny "was not acceptable". On Saturday, Sweden's Trade Minister, Maria Borelius, resigned, after newspaper reports accused her also of employing a nanny without paying taxes or social contribution fees.
The new Swedish government's first week in power has been one of mounting embarrassment. After winning elections in September, Prime Minister Fredrik Reinfeldt only named his cabinet just ten days ago. Another cabinet member has also admitted not paying television fees.
In the United States, Don Rumsfeld has held on to his post as Secretary of Defense despite being challenged from within the Republican Party and the military establishment over his handling of the invasion and occupation of Iraq. Rummy has refused to step down. But in Sweden if you don't pay your television license fee, you are unfit to hold office?
This reminds me of another northern country, Estonia, where other aspiring 'corruption-free' governments have seen resignation after resignation over matters that do not even explicitly taint the government official.
For example, Jaak Jõerüüt stepped down as defense minister in 2005, not because he himself had done anything wrong, but because some ministerial employees had worn controversial t-shirts. And the Parts government fell just because the Riigikogu wouldn't endorse an anti-corruption bill.
What is accomplished by ceremonial resignation? Does it leave the state stronger or weaker in the end when ministers prefer to step down than take the heat of critical media? Is resignation really the answer?