Sweden: Another Witness to Far-Right Populism
Sweden has found itself in a period of uncertainty following September’s general elections. Neither of the main centrist coalitions, the Social Democrats and the Moderates, was able to win a majority. Meanwhile, the Sweden Democrats, a far-right political party, won a significant share of the votes.
The general elections in Sweden this year have been marked by the rise of far-right populism. One group in particular, the Sweden Democrats, has attracted a lot of attention for its “anti-establishment and anti-immigrant” stance. They can be compared to other populist, anti-immigrant, and Eurosceptic political parties in Europe such as the Five Star Movement in Italy or the Alternative für Deutschland party in Germany.
The Sweden Democrats have been known for their roots in Neo-Nazism and, while the party has worked to rebrand itself over the years, it is still perceived by many in Sweden as xenophobic and racist, namely because of its strong and categorical opposition to immigration.
In 2015, record numbers of refugees and asylum seekers from war-torn or politically unstable countries in the Middle East and North Africa streamed into Europe. The migration crisis provided the Sweden Democrats with just the right opening to position themselves as a force to be reckoned with in the Swedish political sphere.
The New York Times reported that in 2015, 163,000 migrants “arrived in Sweden seeking asylum, a large number in a country of 10.1 million.” Compared to other countries in the EU, Sweden recorded the highest intake of refugees per head of the population. As a result, the Sweden Democrats were able to exploit the widespread insecurity brought on by this large influx of migrants.
The far-right populist group built its campaign around the narrative that migrants are detrimental to Sweden and that Swedes need to reclaim their country and identity. They have, for instance, blamed the larger number of migrants for the increase in shootings in Sweden when, in fact, “official figures show no correlation” and have faulted migrants for housing shortages and a saturated health care system.
In condemning open borders and multiculturalism, the Sweden Democrats were able to pull more people to the right of the political spectrum and garner 17.6 percent of the votes.
The election results are an alarming indicator of the growing influence far-right populist movements have in Western European politics. Previously characterized as a “bastion of social democracy,” Sweden, now divided over issues of immigration and globalization, warns of a possible new world order with more closed borders and greater nationalism.