Anti-immigration party set for election gains as Sweden swings right

Leroy Wright
September 10, 2018

Young members of the Sweden Democrats react to the results of the exit polls at their party election centre on Sunday.

Social Democratic Prime Minister Stefan Löfven's red-green left bloc now has a razor-thin one-seat lead over the centre-right opposition Alliance, with almost 200,000 ballots from Swedes who voted overseas still to be counted on Wednesday.

With most votes counted the biggest party (on 28 per cent) is still the ruling centre-left Social Democrats, the oldest and biggest party in Sweden, bleeding from the elderly working class part of its base but still a power.

None of the seven parties has been willing to negotiate with the Sweden Democrats, which first entered parliament in 2006 with 5.7 percent of votes. It could take weeks or months of coalition talks before the next government is formed.

The prime minister said the Sweden Democrats had "Saluted Hitler and fanned the flames of racism".

The Swedish government allowed 163,000 migrants into the country with a population of 10 million in 2015.

The Sweden Democrats, led by Jimmie Akesson, links the country's rising crime rate to immigration, but official figures can't prove any correlation.

The results show Sunday's vote was one of the toughest challenges in decades to Sweden's social democracy, characterized by its high tax rates and substantial welfare system, aimed at reducing inequality through social inclusion.

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Kristersson, who is the center-right Alliance's candidate for prime minister, said that the election results have shown their rivals are "unlikely" to find enough support in parliament, and that he will hold discussion with partners on how to form a new Swedish government. "And the Social Democrats and a Social Democratic-led government is a guarantee for not letting the Sweden Democrats extremist party, racist party, get any influence in the government".

"This government has run its course", Kristersson told a party rally, referring to Lofven's minority cabinet.

The Sweden Democrats, with roots in the neo-Nazi movement, have said the large number of asylum-seekers presents a threat to Swedish culture and claim they put a strain on the country's generous welfare state.

Leaders in Brussels will be disappointed with the party's surge ahead of the European Parliament's elections in May next year, as they bid to discourage euroskepticism following the UK's decision to leave the EU, and as populist parties form alliances to shake up the EU establishment ahead of the vote. Some of their campaign promises include leaving the European Union and putting a freeze on immigration. "It's not just about what happened two years ago when we had a lot of refugees". But the process could take weeks and possibly fail, with the Sweden Democrats vowing to sink any cabinet that doesn't give them a say in policy.

"I'm afraid we're becoming a society that is more hostile to foreigners". "What will happen to me if they enter government or gain influence", asked Mohammad, an 18-year-old Afghan refugee who spoke ideal Swedish when interviewed by AFP. "But the expected. bang did not happen", the liberal Expressen daily said in an op-ed piece.

"The biggest factor is that the Sweden Democrats are a very different party with a very different background to, let's say, the Progress Party in Norway, and even to the Danish People's Party".

"I've said throughout the campaign that 20 to 30 percent (of votes) is a reasonable score for us and I think that's possible".

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