Sweden election: Anti-immigrant Sweden Democrats help defeat government

GOTHENBERG, Sweden — A loose coalition of right-wing parties has defeated Sweden’s centre-left government in a general election, a victory that promises to uplift Swedish politics and the country’s reputation as a haven for progressive, pluralistic ideals. Is.

The victory for the right came after strong support for the Sweden Democrats, once a marginalized anti-immigrant party that would now be the second largest party in the legislature and the strongest voice from the right.

The SD, led by 43-year-old MP Jimmy Axon and the Moderate, Christian Democrat and Liberal parties, won 176 seats, giving them a three-seat lead over Prime Minister Magdalena Anderson’s Social Democrats, according to the latest tally. His Left, Center and environmental allies. Anderson acknowledged on Wednesday evening before the final results. It may still take weeks for a government to be formed.

The closely watched election has already changed Sweden’s political discourse, pushing anti-immigrant and anti-crime rhetoric into the political mainstream and deepening fears about polarization – or “Americanisation” – in Swedish. Of politics.

The European far right has welcomed the strong performance of the SD. “Everywhere in Europe, people aspire to take their fate back into their own hands!” Earlier this week, France’s most right-wing firebrand Marine Le Pen tweeted.

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

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

The SD gained support by taking a tough stance against crime, particularly against rising rates of gun violence in Sweden, and publishing a 30 point plan They want to be able to reject asylum seekers on the basis of religion, for example, or gender or sexual identity, with the aim of making Sweden’s immigration rules the most restrictive in the EU.

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 sold 150,000 . took more than Asylum seekers, including many newcomers from Syria, Iraq and Afghanistan. In the years that followed, concerns have emerged about immigration and their integration.

Social Democrats say they have reduced asylum claims by making it harder for migrants to enter the country and apply, hastened the deportation of asylum seekers whose applications were rejected and insisted That Sweden should not receive more asylum seekers than other EU countries. , Party leaders also took a pledge Reduce the number of “non-Nordic” immigrants Promise to end “Somalitown,” “Chinatown” and “Little Italy” in areas where large numbers of immigrants live.

Even a few years ago, the ascent of the Sweden Democrats seemed far-fetched.

Formed in 1988 by right-wing extremists and neo-Nazis, the Sweden Democrats did not manage to win enough votes to win seats in parliament until 2010. Following that success, leaders began to oust the most extreme members from the party.

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

After being boycotted by the mainstream media for so long, the party has developed its own online news sites and is extremely dominant on social media such as Facebook and YouTube.

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The moderates, the largest of the centre-right parties, had once shunned the SD. But it ultimately opted to establish ties aimed at maintaining the political status quo and ousting the Social Democrats.

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

“In Sweden,” he said, “we isolated the SDs and yet they went up to 20 percent because so many ordinary voters turned to them. At the same time, the SD has moved from a modest status to being a more general political party. ,

Whether the SD is now an “ordinary party” is being debated. Although the party has distanced itself from its neo-Nazi roots and distanced itself from some of its previous positions, its platform remains excommunicated.

Members want to end immigration from outside Europe and return Muslims to their countries of origin. SD spokesperson a month before the election tweeted A photo of a metro train in party blue and yellow with the words: “Welcome to the Pravatartan Express. Here is a one way ticket. Next stop, Kabul!”

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

Sweden’s Democrat voters live in small towns and rural areas, and the majority are male, according to Ann-Katherine Junger, a professor at the University of Södertern, who studies Populist radical right-wing parties.

They are less educated than the average voter, Junger said, but many Small scale entrepreneurs. The party has also attracted traditional working class votes and is increasing its support among the youth.

“These voters have less trust in the media – they believe they have biased information on the core issue of immigration,” Junger said. “SD uses populist rhetoric that there is a ‘left-liberal establishment,’ an elite that does not understand the people.”

Party Having cultivated ties with Trump supporters and the alt-right in the United States, she said: “At first it was the Moderates who had liaison with the Republicans, but now it is the SD who has taken over and the Moderate Democrats have allied with “

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

Rauhala reported from Brussels

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