Anti-immigrant party helps defeat Sweden’s government

Gothenburg, Sweden – A loose coalition of right-wing parties has defeated Sweden’s center-left government in a general election, a victory that promises to boost Swedish politics and the country’s reputation as a haven of progressive, pluralist ideals.

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

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

“Time to make Sweden great again,” Akesson wrote on Facebook.

The closely watched election has already shaped Sweden’s political discourse, pushing anti-immigrant and tough-on-crime rhetoric into the political mainstream and deepening fears about the polarization — or “Americanization” — of Swedish politics.

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

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The outcome could shape Sweden’s role on the world stage as the country works with partners to respond to the war in Ukraine, seek membership of NATO and assume the rotating presidency of the European Union in 2023.

“When you stay in power in one place, it’s a source of instability,” said Erik Adamson, a Stockholm-based project manager at the Atlantic Council’s Northern Europe office. “This could make it difficult for Sweden to take a leadership role in Northern Europe, the EU or NATO.”

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

A decade ago, Sweden’s liberal immigration policies were not a major political issue. In 2015, the influx of migrants into Europe began to change this. At that time, Sweden took over 150,000 Asylum seekers, including many newcomers from Syria, Iraq and Afghanistan. In the years since, concerns about immigration and their integration have come to the fore.

The Social Democrats say they have reduced asylum claims by making it harder for migrants to enter the country and apply, increased deportations of asylum seekers whose applications are rejected and insist Sweden will not receive more asylum seekers than other EU countries. Party leaders also pledged Reduce the number of “non-Nordic” immigrants “Somalitowns,” “Chinatowns” and “Little Italy” are promised to end, with large numbers of immigrants living there.

A few years ago, the rise of the Sweden Democrats would have seemed far-fetched.

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

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

Boycotted by the mainstream media for so long, the party has developed its own online news sites and is highly influential on social media platforms such as Facebook and YouTube.

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Centrist, the largest of the center-right parties, once broke away from the SD. But eventually decided to establish relations with the aim of maintaining the political status quo and unseating the Social Democrats.

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

“In Sweden,” he said, “we separated the SD, and yet it grew to 20 percent as many ordinary voters turned to them. At the same time, SD has moved away from a fringe position towards becoming a mainstream 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 distanced itself from some of its earlier 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, S.D Tweeted A photo of a subway train in party blue and yellow with the words: “Welcome to the Return Express. This is a one-way ticket. Next stop, Kabul!”

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

Sweden Democrat voters live in small towns and rural areas and are mostly men, according to Anne-Katherine Jünger, a professor at Södertörn University who conducted the study. Populist radical right party.

They are less educated than the average voter, Junger said, but there are many There are small entrepreneurs. The party has also attracted traditional working-class votes and is growing its support among the youth.

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

the party Relations with Trump supporters and the alt-right in the United States have increased, she said: “Before it was the moderates who connected with the Republicans, but now it is the SD that has taken over and the moderates are connected with the Democrats. .”

“The concern is that we’re becoming more like America in terms of polarization and intense rhetoric,” said the Atlantic Council’s Adamson. “Where every battle becomes survival.”

Rouhala reported from Brussels

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