February 2, 2023 1:39 am

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Rise of The Right: Sweden goes the Italy way

Ulf Kristersson, the leader of the Moderate party was elected the new Prime Minister of Sweden on 17 October, 2022. The electoral rise of Sweden Democrats — a far-right party has been the highlight of the general elections.

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Sweden elections

In another significant development in European politics, a new government will head Sweden — backed by a right-wing party. Ulf Kristersson, the leader of the Moderate party was elected as the new Prime Minister on 17 October, 2022. He has the support of Sweden Democrats, a far-right party. The electoral rise of Sweden Democrats — a far-right party has been the highlight of general elections in the Nordic country.

Although differing in results, Swedish elections show similar trends to recent polls in other European nations such as Italy or France.

Sweden PM Ulf Kristersson delivers a speech on September 11, 2022.
The new Swedish PM Ulf Kristersson delivering a speech on September 11, 2022 Photo credit: AP

Right in Sweden

On 15 September, preliminary election results were announced, showing huge inroads for Sweden Democrats.

Sweden Democrat supporters in Stockholm during the 2014 European elections
Sweden Democrat supporters in Stockholm during the 2014 European elections Photo Credit: Wikimedia Commons

The far-right party with 73 seats in Riksdag (Swedish Parliament) will not assume a role in government but would back the centre-right coalition. With a historic 20.5% vote share, the Sweden Democrats’ ascent was noteworthy —  second only to the Social Democrats.

The Social Democrats — led by former Swedish PM Magdalena Andersson failed to form a government despite winning most parliamentary seats.

The unprecedented result in Sweden has puzzled many as to why Sweden Democrats were so overwhelmingly voted for in a traditionally left-leaning country. Before understanding the reasons for their electoral performance, let us delve into the party’s background. 

The Sweden Democrats Party

The Sweden Democrats were founded in 1988 with origins in neo-Nazism and Fascism.

Its current leader, Jimmie Åkesson oversaw the process of reformation by expelling hardline members. Since the 1990s, party has grown steadily, while gaining 20 seats in Riksdag for the first time.

Even with electoral success, for a long, other Swedish political parties maintained a cordon sanitaire with the far-right party.

In politics, cordon sanitaire is the refusal of a political party to work or cooperate with another party, mainly due to ideological differences. Though the situation changed in 2019 when Christian Democrats and Moderates party announced their readiness to negotiate with Sweden Democrats in the Riksdag.

The increase of the far-right party in Sweden has been compared by the International media to similar anti-immigration movements in Europe.

The reasons for the electoral success of Sweden Democrats is a topic of much speculation but the answers are firmly rooted in certain issues which have commonly affected Europe in recent years.

Increasing Wave of Crime

According to a Reuters report, three young males in Orebro, Sweden were shot dead in May, this year.

As per Swedish media, the number of people shot dead was record-high this year. By September 2022, the police had recorded as many as 273 shootings in the country, says an NYT report.

During their eight years in power, the Social Democrats were unable to stop the rise in organised crime despite stricter gun control laws and more funding for law enforcement.

During the election campaigning, the voters were highly critical of the ruling alliance’s inefficiency to deal with crime. While on the other hand, voters perceived opposition Moderate alliance as having a better policy on dealing with crime, as per a poll by Novus.

The issue of crime was most talked about in the elections and it highly correlated with another issue.

Immigration

In the 2015 wave that rocked Europe, Sweden took in the most refugees per capita, which earned many praises from around the world.

Sweden is one of the nations that is regarded as being the most welcoming to immigrants. One-fifth of its population of 10 million, are not native-born residents. Many of them are immigrants from other European nations, as well as from Syria, Afghanistan, Iraq, Somalia, and other places.

According to a BBC report, the latest cases of violence were largely concentrated in regions with high immigration populations. The right faction blamed immigrants as one of the major reasons for the rising incidents of shooting.

Sweden Democrats openly supported stricter immigration policy — which highly benefited the party, electorally.

Far-Right in Europe

The election result in Sweden clearly resembles the political scenario in Italy.

Last month, Giorgia Meloni and her far-right party formed government in Italy. This was for the first time that Italy had elected a far-right-led government in its post-World War II history.

Similar to Sweden Democrats, the now ruling party ‘Brothers of Italy’ has been criticised for its link with the Fascist Italian movement and dictator Benito Mussolini. 

The recent political trend might bring a political paradigm shift in Europe. The new governments in Europe — be it Italy or Sweden — will tighten up immigration laws. It will also lead to Euroscepticism, as far-right countries have always been critical of the European Union.

Yash Rawat
Yash Rawat

Its been hard to express myself so here I am.. writing.

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