General elections took place in Sweden on September 9th, with results coming in there appeared to be no clear winner. Anti-immigration party, mockingly named Sweden Democrats (SD), came in third and could play a key role in shaping the next government.
Prime Minister Stefan Lofven’s ruling centre-left bloc had a slight lead with 40.6 percent of the vote, with the center-right alliance winning a total 40.3 percent. The Moderates have 19.8 percent of the vote. Sweden Democrats gained 17.6 percent of the vote, up from 12.9 percent in the previous 2014 elections. The Centre Party is at 8.6 percent, the Christian Democrats are at 6.4 percent, Liberals 5.5 percent and Green Party at 4.3 percent. These were results as of early morning September 10th, with 99% of the ballots counted.
Jon Henley, a journalist for The Guardian who was on-site in Stockholm, commented: “The new government, which could now take weeks to form, will need either cross-bloc alliances between centre-right and centre-left parties, or an accommodation with the Sweden Democrats – long shunned by all other parties because of their extremist roots – to pass legislation, potentially giving the populists a say in policy.”
Guy Verhofstadt, the European Parliament’s Brexit coordinator and former Belgium Prime Minister, has welcomed the Swedish election result. He tweeted: “Polls show that our Centre Party and Liberal allies win votes compared to 2014 elections. Also, Swedish Democrats win less than expected.”
The unaligned far-right Sweden Democrats have capitalized on growing anti-migrant sentiment after an influx of refugees in 2015 rattled the political landscape in one of the world’s most liberal nations. The Sweden Democrats officially reject fascism and Nazism.
Nonetheless, critics of the Sweden Democrats point out that the party has its roots in Swedish fascism, and was primarily a white nationalist movement through the early-1990s. Then it first began distancing itself from its past. The SD’s logo from the 1990s until 2006 was a version of the torch used by the UK National Front (widely known fascist party in the UK).
Prime Minister Stefan Lofven, head of the country’s center-left bloc, called for cooperation across the political divide amid concerns the center-right opposition may attempt to form a government with the help of the Sweden Democrats. “We have two weeks left until parliament opens. I will work on calmly, as prime minister, respecting voters and the Swedish electoral system,” Lofven said at a party rally.
Jimmie Akesson, leader of the Sweden Democrats, said in a speech at his campaign headquarters that his party will now have “influence over Swedish politics.” The Sweden Democrats want to freeze migration and have pushed for the country to leave the European Union.
CNN cited political scientist Nicholas Aylott who said factions of the center-right alliance might want to reach an accommodation with the Sweden Democrats, despite both main blocs vowing not to work with the far-right party.
This is reinforced by the fact that Akesson, in his post-election speech, called on other parties to acknowledge his party’s success by entering into talks with it. He singled out the centre-right’s candidate for premier, Moderates leader Ulf Kristersson, for possible negotiations.
“I invite Ulf Kristersson to talk about how this country is supposed to be governed in the future,” he said. “This is a very clear signal to the voters that the government we have had, it does not support the support of the majority of voters,” he added.
Sweden has had several recent coalition and minority governments. CNN further cited Aylott who said that while a German-style “grand coalition” between the main Social Democrats and Moderates is possible, another alternative might be an alliance under a new prime minister chosen as “the candidate parliamentarians dislike the least” in accordance with Sweden’s parliamentary system.
Following the 2015 migrant crisis, immigration became highly politicized in Sweden, with the country taking in more than 160,00 refugees.
CNN reported that support for the far right in Sweden mirrors similar trends in other European nations following the mass migration of refugees to the region in 2015, at the height of the Syrian war. Anti-migrant parties in Germany, Austria, Denmark, France, Hungary, Italy and the UK have all made gains in recent years.
CNN also cited Anders Ygeman, a senior Social Democrats official who said that the migrant crisis is the reason why SD has such a large share of the vote. “We paid the price for being in government. We suffered from the refugee crisis in 2015. That’s why the Sweden Democrats are as big as they seem to be,” he said, cited by CNN.
The migration crisis has also been reinforced by a surge in migrant-related crime. There have been numerous reports claiming that crime is intimately linked to the country’s failure to integrate its immigrants. Most recently, on August 13th, around 80 cars were set on fire and a further 40 were vandalized in the city of Gothenburg in western Sweden, media dubbed it a crime of migrant groups, despite there being no concrete evidence. The attackers were all male, with black masks, their ethnicity could not be determined. Furthermore, Sweden does not keep stats on ethnicity and crime, despite all claims that there is a clear connection between migration and criminal activity.
The results of the September 9th election, however, lead Sweden to hard upcoming weeks, if not months, until a government can be negotiated between all “winners.”