Swedish far-right party rewarded for bringing down government

Swedes will go to the polls on 22 March 2015. [Håkan Dahlström/Flickr]

The Sweden Democrats, the far-right party that chose to bring down the newly-elected Swedish government earlier in December, is surging in the latest polls.

According to a new survey, published by news channel TV4, the populists are experiencing their biggest gains since the general elections in September, when 12.3% of voters supported it at the ballot box. Today, 16% would vote for the Sweden Democrats, which is the only anti-EU party in the Swedish Parliament, the Riksdagen, and wants to change Sweden’s otherwise liberal migration policies. The party is mainly stealing voters from centre-right parties.

In early December, together with the right-wing ‘Alliance’ of Conservatives, the Sweden Democrats, the Liberals, the Social Liberals and the Christian Democrats voted against the left-wing Swedish government’s budget proposal for 2015, prompting Prime Minister Stefan Löfven to call for an election in March 2015.

Löfven could, however, still get reelected as prime minister of Sweden. His party, the Social Democrats, is also winning support among voters. The Social Democrats are currently at 32%, up 3.4% since September, and remain the country’s biggest party, though the majority of voters come from previous coalition partners the Environment Party.

The Swedish political scene was rocked by the government crisis, which was caused by all the parties represented in the Parliament refusing to work with the Swedish Democrats, as they view the party as being racist, with roots in Sweden’s neo-Nazi scene. The party’s main focus is to limit the flow of migrants to Sweden, a country which has had the most liberal immigration rules in Europe over the past decade.

In September, former Prime Minister Fredrik Reinfeldt, from the conservative Moderates party, decided to step down, even though he could have continued in office, had he relied on the votes from the Sweden Democrats. The refusal of other parties to include the Sweden Democrats in parliamentary work has so far been a counterproductive strategy, not only making the party more popular, but also the real kingmaker in the general elections.

The party’s surge is nonetheless surprising, as the Sweden Democrats’ charismatic leader, Jimmie Åkesson, has been out of the public eye for months, after he took a leave of absence due to stress-related health issues during the election campaign.  

To avoid a new political crisis after the March elections, and to keep the Sweden Democrats out of power, Anna Kinberg Batra, the new leader of the Moderates, and the right-wing coalition’s candidate for prime minister, initially suggested that a grand coalition of the Social Democrats and the Moderates could be the solution. Since then, Batra, who could become the Scandinavian country’s first female prime minister, has distanced herself from that comment, according to the Dagens Nyheter.

Instead, Batra is now suggesting that Sweden should be better at integrating the migrants that come to Sweden, not limiting the overall number. In 2012, around 103,000 people immigrated to Sweden, according to official stats, and 20% of the country’s residents had roots outside Sweden.

“I think we need to be responsible. There are a lot of people who are right now fleeing wars and catastrophes and there we can make a difference as a rich country. More of the world’s richest countries should do the same,” Batra said.

“But we need to discuss how we can make sure that more of these people can get a job, how we can provide better housing, and how we can cooperate better when it comes to national and local politics,” she continued.    

The Social Democrat-Green coalition government called snap elections for 22 March 2015, only three months after it came to power and for the first time since the early 1950s.

Their budget proposal would have raised taxes and increased benefits for the jobless. The Conservatives, the Liberals, the Centre Party and the Christian Democrats blocked the proposal with the support of the far-right Sweden Democrats.

  • 22 March 2015: Parliamentary elections in Sweden.

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