Swedish Anti-Immigration Party Wins Seats for First Time in Surprising Parliamentary Elections     Print Email

(Sept. 22, 2010) The world of Swedish politics was stunned by last Sunday’s elections, when the anti-immigration party (Sweden Democrats) won 20 out of the 349 parliamentary seats; a first since its’ founding in 1988 (see New York Times). Party leader Jimmie Akesson has described Muslim population growth as the biggest external threat to Sweden since World War II. The governing Center-Right coalition of Prime Minister Frederik Reinfeldt failed to win a parliamentary majority, falling just 3 votes shy of the necessary 175 seats. The Social Democrats, in turn, suffered their worst showing since 1914. Prime Minister Reinfeldt has pledged not to work with the far-right Sweden Democrats, and if the still uncounted ballots from Swedes living abroad do not tip the results, he may well have to seek to widen his governing coalition elsewhere.

When Prime Minister Reinfeldt’s Center-Right coalition first upended the Social Democrats in 2006, the liberal leaning party had governed Sweden for 65 of the past 78 years and had succeeded in enshrining a cradle-to-grave social welfare system as a central tenet of the country’s political and social reality. Reinfeldt was only able to win the 2006 election by moving further to the center and promising welfare reforms that would be subtle and gradual. A policy he has followed in office. Careful never to stray too far, Prime Minister Reinfeldt has readily acknowledged that in Sweden, welfare is more important than wealth. Furthermore, the ruling coalition’s deft governance during the economic downturn has made the Swedish economy one of the strongest in Europe, with a 4% growth expected this year. Ultimately, Swedes were clearly not convinced that the Social Democrats would be the optimal economic stewards, nor did the party appear to offer effective answers to other concerns, such as immigration and welfare. For their part, the left appears to have taken its mass appeal for granted.

With the distinctions between left and center-right policies increasingly blurred, the Sweden Democrats were able to gain votes with their tough stances on immigration. And their success is yet another indication of the growing momentum of anti-immigrant sentiment in Europe; a worrisome trend equally evident in the United States.

 

By Jennifer Pietras

 

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