Swedish populists braced for gains

Swedish populists braced for gains

Sweden’s far-right anti-EU party is poised to make big gains in Sunday’s general election, capitalising on issues surrounding immigration, crime and health care.

A Social Democrat-Green coalition has run the country for four years with ever-unreliable polls suggesting that Sweden’s main centre-left and -right parties are evenly matched. 

While the governing left-of-centre coalition is set to secure slightly more votes than the four-party Alliance, both groups are set to fall short of a majority. The left-leaning parties had 40.2 per cent of the vote, and the Alliance 38.9 per cent, according to a Novus poll last week. 

The populist Sweden’s Democrats led some polls earlier in the summer and is now expected to win around 20 per cent of the vote.

Immigration is a key issue with Sweden taking more asylum seekers per head of population than any other European country. 

“Sweden has experienced, by far, the largest per capita immigration in Europe over the past few decades, which makes migrant-related issues especially divisive,” said Hakan Frisen, a forecasting chief at SEB. 

Sweden received around 163,000 asylum seekers in 2015, leading the coalition government to tighten asylum laws. Sweden’s Democrats, which has roots in the Swedish white supremacy movement, has attacked the government for putting the generous welfare state at risk.

“Although a large majority of both the general public and members of parliament now believe that the tightening of refugee policy implemented in late 2015 should be made permanent, many difficult questions remain, particularly with political tensions connected to strains on the schools, health care, social services system and housing supply,” Frisen said.

Some observers believe a new government for Prime Minister Stefan Löfven (pictured), with an even weaker minority, is the most likely outcome. 

The red-green bloc has the informal support of the ex-communist Left Party.

Löfven might try to win the support of two Alliance members, the Centre Party and Liberals, to gain a majority, finding agreement on issues like immigration, integration and gender equality.

The extremist Sweden Democrats has vowed to unseat any minority left-wing government at a key moment like the autumn budget bill.

The four centre-right Alliance parties which governed between 2006 and 2014 (the Moderates, Centre, Liberals and Christian Democrats) would probably need the support of the populist Sweden Democrats to form a majority.

The far-right party would either ask for policy concessions – which has been ruled out – or key positions on parliamentary commissions that draw up legislation.


Prime Minister Stefan Löfven. Picture credit: Flickr




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