Sweden elections: Anti-immigration Sweden Democrats celebrate gains

GOTHENBERG, Sweden – Three days after the polls closed, it is still unclear who will win the general election as the Swedish election approaches. But with officials counting the final votes, there is already one winner: the country’s far right.

The anti-immigration Swedish Democratic Party, once considered marginal, is on the verge of upending Swedish politics and the country’s reputation as a haven for progressive and pluralistic ideals.

With 95 percent of the vote counted by Tuesday night, the party had its best ever 20.6 percent, a result that makes it the second-largest party in the Riksdag and its leading vote on the right.

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The SD party, led by 43-year-old lawmaker Jimmy Akesson, brought together the moderate, Christian Democrat and liberal parties. 49.7 percent of the vote, giving them a slim lead over Prime Minister Magdalena Anderson’s incumbent Social Democrats and their left, center and environmental allies.

If the trend continues, SD could lead the centre-right coalition, perhaps with one seat. The final count is expected on Wednesday. It may take weeks for the government to form.

Whatever the outcome, the race has already reshaped political discourse, pushing anti-immigrant and hard-line rhetoric of crime into the political mainstream and deepening concerns here about the polarization — or “Americanization” of — Swedish politics.

The European far right welcomed the strong performance of SD. “Everywhere in Europe, people aspire to take their destiny back into their own hands!” Marine Le Pen, the far-right controversy in France, tweeted.

The outcome could also shape Sweden’s standing on the world stage as the country works with partners to respond to the war in Ukraine, seeks NATO membership and takes over the European Union’s rotating presidency in 2023.

“When you hold power with one seat, it is a cause of instability,” said Eric Adamson, a Stockholm-based project manager for the Atlantic Council’s Northern Europe office. “This may make it more difficult for Sweden to take a leadership role in Northern Europe, in the European Union or in NATO.”

SD gained support by taking a tougher stance against crime, particularly against the high rates of gun violence in Sweden, and by spreading 30 point plan It aims to make Swedish immigration rules among the most restrictive in the European Union. They want to be able to reject asylum seekers based on religion, for example, or on the basis of gender or gender identity.

A decade ago, Sweden’s liberal immigration policies were not a major political issue. The influx of migrants to Europe in 2015 began to change this. At that time, Sweden acquired more than 150,000 Asylum seekers, including many new arrivals from Syria, Iraq and Afghanistan. In the years that followed, concerns about immigration and their integration came to the fore.

The Social Democrats maintain that they have reduced asylum applications by making it more difficult for migrants to enter the country and apply, escalated the deportation of rejected asylum seekers, and insisted that Sweden should not take in more asylum seekers than other EU countries. . Party leaders also pledged to Dilute the numbers of ‘non-Northern’ immigrants In areas with large immigrant populations, they promise the end of “Somalitowns”, “Chinatowns” and “Little Italies”.

Even a few years ago, the rise of the Swedish Democrats seemed far-fetched.

The Swedish Democratic Party was formed in 1988 by right-wing extremists and neo-Nazis, and they were not able to get enough votes to win seats in parliament until 2010. After this breakthrough, leaders began to exclude the most extreme members of the party.

Other parties and media have stayed away from SD, refusing to talk to him or give him a platform. But support for the party has grown rapidly over the past 10 years, culminating in Sunday’s election.

The party, boycotted by the mainstream media, has developed its own online news sites, and is very effective on social media such as Facebook and YouTube.

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The moderates, the largest of the center-right parties, were once moving away from the SD party. In the end, however, she chose to establish relations with the aim of overturning the political status quo and displacing the Social Democrats.

“If you want a government that is not based on the Social Democrats, you need to cooperate with the Social Democrats,” Anders Borg, a former finance minister, told the Moderates. “I can’t see any other viable electoral strategy other than finding a way to cooperate with them.”

He said: “In Sweden, we have isolated the SD and yet it has grown to 20 per cent as a lot of ordinary voters have drifted towards them. At the same time, the Democratic Party has moved away from a fringe position to become a more ordinary political party.”

Whether SD is now a “normal party” is up for debate. Although the party has distanced itself from its neo-Nazi roots and has moved away from some of its previous positions, its platform remains exclusionary.

Members want to end immigration from outside Europe and return Muslims to their countries of origin. A month before the election, a spokesperson for SD chirp A blue and yellow subway photo of the party reads: “Welcome aboard the repatriation train. This is a one-way ticket. Next stop, Kabul!”

“They don’t include Islam in Swedish,” said Andrei Kokkonen, a professor of politics at the University of Gothenburg who studies anti-immigration parties. “You can’t be Swede and Muslim at the same time.”

Sweden’s democratic voters tend to live in small towns and rural areas, and are mostly men, according to Ann-Catherine Ginger, a professor at Söderthorn University who studies. Right-wing populist parties.

Ginger said they are less educated than the average voter, but a lot of them are of small business owners. The party also attracted voices from the traditional working class and increased their support among the youth.

“These voters have less faith in the media — they think there is biased information about their underlying issue of immigration,” Jungar said. “The Social Democratic Party uses populist rhetoric that there is a ‘left-liberal establishment’, and an elite that does not understand the people.”

the party She has forged ties with supporters of Trump and the alt-right in the United States, and said, “Previously it was the moderates who made contact with the Republicans, but now it is the Social Democrats who have taken over and the moderates are connected to the Democrats…”

“There is a concern here that we are becoming more like America with polarization and intense rhetoric,” said Adamson, of the Atlantic Council. “Where every battle becomes an existential battle.”

Reported by Rohala from Brussels

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