Hungarian politics on culture inspires Swedish nationalist

Patrik Ehn.jpg

Hungary’s tough political control of the media and cultural life has been strongly criticised across the European Union. However, a member of the Swedish nationalist political party Sverigedemokraterna (SD) says Hungary is a good example when it comes to how to politically shape culture.

Patrik Ehn, one of SD's most visible members, has called Hungary an "interesting political example".

"They have clear political goals when it comes to culture about preserving the national identity, highlighting history and so on. They work very consciously with this, so that some business managers have to decide whether they want to work by these political goals,” Ehn said in a TV interview.

Ehn's right-wing SD, which calls itself a "Sweden-friendly" party, for the first time crossed the threshold necessary for parliamentary representation in the 2010 general election. The party currently has 20 seats out of 349 in the Riksdagen.

The party's increased popularity has been viewed by international news media as a reflection of similar anti-immigrant sentiment across Nordic countries.

The Swedish politician is one of the group leaders of the party in the second largest county Västra Götaland, and member of SD's Election Committee. It was revealed in 2010 that Ehn since 2003 had regular contact with the German far-right party NPD, creating uproar within the party's own ranks, which sees itself as more moderate.

A landslide in Hungary

In April 2010, Hungarians voted overwhelmingly for a radical change in leadership, sending the ruling Socialists into opposition and giving the centre-right Fidesz a qualified majority in parliament.

The Hungarian election marked the biggest victory for any political party in a general election since the fall of communism 21 years earlier. However, critics say Hungary's new constitution undermines the independence of the central bank, the judiciary and the news media

A new media law in Hungary, which among other things requires national media to "spread Hungarian values", has been criticised by the EU Commission, Amnesty International and the Swedish Minister for European Union Affairs, Birgitta Ohlsson.

But in the interview on the Swedish TV-show Kulturnyheterna, Ehn highlighted Hungary's politics when it comes to culture as a positive example for Sweden.

Spreading Swedish culture

“When we get more political influence, then the plan for culture in Sweden will look different. If we also get influence over the appointment of senior officials and managers, then we will try to recruit cultural managers who will implement our political goals on culture,” Ehn said.

Last year many theatres across Europe protested against the political control of culture in Hungary when Budapest Mayor István Tarlós appointed a new theatre director who has opinions corresponding to those of Fidesz.

”I won’t say that politics on culture is more important to us than any other party. Left-wing parties appoint left-wing business managers, and because of the political climate today, there’s a focus on the multicultural. But that will be different as our party grows,” Ehn said.

Sverigedemokraterna, or Sweden Democrats, was formed in 1988, but only won its first seats in the Swedish parliament in 2010.

The current political leader of Sverigedemokraterna (SD) is the former web-designer Jimmie Åkesson.

SD believes that the Swedish immigration and integration policies have been a failure. The party wants to reinstate a common Swedish national identity which in turn would mean a stronger inner solidarity.

SD has been inspired by the success of its sister-party in Denmark, the Danish People's Party, which gave parliamentary support to the Danish liberal-conservative government from 2001-2011 in return for a tightening of immigration policies.

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