For the first time, the far-right Sweden Democrats are the biggest party in Sweden. According to a Yougov poll commisioned by Metro, the extremists would receive 25.2% of the vote if there was an election today, ahead of the governing centre-left Social Democrats, at 23.4%.
In the 2014 general election, the Sweden Democrats became the third biggest party, receiving 12.9% of the vote. Despite the fact that party leader Jimmie Åkesson took a six-month leave of abscence afterwards, the nationalist party’s popularity has grown steadily.
“A lot of people are unhappy with the government and its policies when it comes to immigration and integration, as well as the increasing number of beggars. Many people don’t view the Moderates or other rigth-wing parties as an alternative. So they turn to us,” Richard Jomshof, a spokesperson for the Sweden Democrats, told news agency TT.
For many years, Sweden has had a liberal approach to immigration, accepting the most refugees per capita of any EU member state.
In early August, the party put up a banner in the busy Östermalmstorg subway station in Stockholm in English, appologising to tourists for the proliferation of beggars.
The banner read: “Sorry about the mess here in Sweden. We have a serious problem with forced begging! International gangs profit from people’s desperation. Our government won’t do what’s needed. But we will! And we’re growing at records speed. We are the Sweden Democrats! Welcome back in Sweden in 2018!”
Jomshof said the campaign has made a difference for his party.
“I’m convinced that the campaign against begging in the Swedish subways played a role because it got remarkable attention,” he stated.
Political scientist Sören Holmberg also told Metro that he was not suprised by the poll, as immigration has become a much bigger political topic for voters.
“It’s clear that crime is an important factor that motivates people to vote for the Sweden Democrats,” Holmberg said.
However, the newspaper Dagens Nyheter pointed to the fact that the Sweden Democrats always do well in Yougov’s polls, possibly due to a different way of measuring support. Combining the five biggest polls in Sweden, gave in June the Sweden Democrats on average 16.4% of the vote.