The society that The Guardian has declared “the best in the world” has taken a big step to the right.
For the first time since the 1970s, a right-wing coalition has been re-elected in Sweden. And not just a teeny-tiny step either. The extremist right party, the Sweden Democrats (SD) received 5.7% of the votes in an election that showed the lowest percentage (30.4) ever for the Social Democrats (S) tarnishing the brand of welcoming IKEA furniture-building socialists.
There are many factors behind the result, but central has been the declining support for the Social Democrats ever since they ran for parliament together with the Left Party and the Greens.
While the Greens is Sweden’s third largest party with 7% of the votes this election, the Left (previously known as the Left Communists) only has the support of 4% of the electorate. The Left irks voters who, although committed to social reform and state ownership, not own a dog-eared copy of The Communist Manifesto.
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So what do the Sweden Democrats believe? The first thing to note is that a step to the right in Sweden is nowhere near as extreme as in Australian standards.
The right coalition including Prime Minister Fredrik Reinfeldt’s the Moderates and four other parties endorse equal marriage rights — gay marriage is legal — the pill, and high immigration. No one on the Swedish right would dare make a statement even remotely similar to “girls should treasure their precious gifts” — let alone think it. The Swedish right even has an equality minister whom, in the last Gay Pride-festival, dressed up in a latex Catwoman suit.
The difference of left and right lies less in ideology and more in socio-economics: the right wants lower taxes and more privatisation. The left want the opposite.
Nevertheless, immigration is something that many Swedes believe has not been discussed enough heading up to this election, on either side.
Enter the Sweden Democrats. Party leader Jimmie Akesson has increased their vote from below 3% to 5.7%, which translates into 20 seats in the 349-seat parliament.
How did they do this? Well, mostly by fear mongering among the unemployed in rural areas and with the existing support from the people who have always voted for them.
It may also be that they benefitted from a “protest vote” against the extreme political correctness in Sweden. People who say anything even slightly against immigration or immigrants are usually branded racists — at least according to SD.
The Swedish Democrats have tweaked their message to sound less racist and more patriotic then in elections in the past. While the central message in previous campaigns was along the lines of “a Swedish girl is being r-ped tonight, and not by a Swede”, this year’s campaign focused on the alleged failure of the political elite to acknowledge the “Muslim-threat” and the protection of Swedish traditions.
They have also blamed the high unemployment rate and fluctuating economy on immigration and promised to try to decrease immigration by 90% (!).
Nevertheless, it’s still a pretty noxious message. In 2007, Akesson advanced 33 suggestions on how to change immigration policy, which included:
- Restrictions on granting citizenships;
- Laws against burqas and niqabs in public places;
- No more mosques to be built on Swedish soil and punishment for immigrants that undermine Swedish law with excuses rooted in Muslim faith (when Akesson was asked to explain the last point he said “immigrants should be deported if they criticise Sweden”, adding that “if a 15-year-old shoplifts the entire family should be forced to leave the country”.)
All the major parties tried to stop SD from gaining power by barring them from debates before the election and by asking the people of Sweden, regardless of party-preference to vote for democracy and against SD.
Broadcast media also effectively banned their campaign commercial, which featured a elderly woman with a walker racing against a group of burqa-wearing women with strollers to get a piece of the budget.
Print and online media outlets investigated many of their senior members showing several candidates had been members of Nazi-organisations in the past. Some even posed in brown shirts in front of swastikas.
Like Australia, Sweden now has a hung parliament. The difference though, is that no one is fighting over the endorsement of independents. Both sides of the political spectrum are completely shunning SD and have publicly announced that none of them will collaborate with any of their 20 democratically chosen members of parliament.
So what will happen now? The right coalition with their 173 seats in parliament will three seats short of a majority rule in minority but they are trying to get the Greens over to their side of the center to avoid any intrusion from SD. As in Australia, the Greens refuse to collaborate with the right “capitalists” meaning we’re left with complete confusion.