Sweden faces far-right election gains

Europe
Sweden
Politics
Sweden Democrats

Persecution complex: Jimmie Akesson (centre left), leader of the far-right Sweden Democrats party. © Fredrik Persson/Scanpix/Reuters

On 14 September, Swedes will come out to vote in the general election. The current centre-right coalition will most likely be voted out and replaced by a red-green coalition led by the Social Democrats. But, as happened in the past national poll, the balance of power may be held by a far-right group, the Sweden Democrats.

A nationalist party with roots in the white power movement, the Sweden Democrats won their first two seats in the European Parliament last May, after a campaign devoted to demonizing Syrian asylum-seekers, Romanian beggars and Polish labourers. It has formed a new bloc in the European Parliament with Britain’s UK Independence Party (UKIP) and the Italian Five Star Movement.

The party is now hoping to win at least 10 per cent in the upcoming poll – double its tally from 2010, when it first entered parliament.

Thus far, all the other parties have refused to collaborate with it, because it is seen as too tainted by a neo-Nazi past. But the Sweden Democrats are determined to get a foothold in the mainstream political arena. They have carefully studied the tactics of the French Front National and the thriving right-populist parties of Norway, Denmark and Finland.

Hostility to migrants and minorities – particularly Muslims – remains, but is now couched in terms of ‘culture’ rather than race. The party has sought to attract working-class voters by presenting itself as the last line of defence for the Swedish model of social solidarity, which it says has been betrayed by the Social Democrats and the old trade unions.

But it is encouraging to see that a fast-growing popular anti-racist movement is hitting back. In many parts of the country it is now difficult for party leader Jimmie Åkesson to make a speech without being drowned out or finding that two-thirds of the audience have ostentatiously turned their backs. Nurses, doctors, firefighters and students have boycotted Sweden Democrat campaign visits and, in a few cases, barricaded their schools or workplaces.

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