The advance of nationalists

Elections saw the defeat of the moderate coalition. Social-democratic government, success of the xenophobic party

Changes were in the air, but the outcomes of the elections in Sweden on Sunday, September 14 (83% turnout), for the renewal of 349 members of the Riksdag, municipalities and counties were an unexpected wet blanket. “An exceptional election”, said Erik Helmerson, political commentator of daily newspaper “Dagens Nyeter”, told Sir Europe: “Everyone lost except for Swedish Democrats”. Bad news for the moderates – 23.2% of the votes – who led the Country for eight years and now have to step down,having lost 6.7% of their consensus (the outgoing centre-right coalition reached almost 39%). All considered, it was also a surprise for Socialists & Democrats (31.2%), who in fact kept their position with 0.4% more votes. The left-wing coalition gained approximately 43% (158 seats; parliamentary majority requires 175), with the Greens disappointed for having stopped at 6.8%, with a 0.5% drop while representatives of the Feminist Initiative party failed to obtain a seat. Swedish Democrats are the only ones who have reason to celebrate. In fact, the nationalist party marked by xenophobia obtained 12.9% of votes (results are not yet official), thereby doubling previous numbers, a percentage which a large part of Europe views with concern, although the European elections in March saw a growth in their popularity. The nationalistic extreme-right brought together all those disappointed by the moderate right: its 49 seats in parliament will be a thorn in the flesh of the government coalition due to be formed in the coming days. “It quite a choc to realize that the populist right of the Swedish Democrats has become the third largest party in the Country”, outgoing Foreign Minister Carl Bildt posted on Twitter. Fredrik Reinfeldt, Prime Minister for the past eight years, has resigned. On the other hand, creating a government majority won’t be an easy task for Social-Democratic leader Stefan Löfvén. Sunday’s elections resulted in 12.9% to Swedish Democrats. Why did so many voters opt for the nationalistic Party? “Over the past five-ten years Sweden has been very generous in terms of asylum policies and the reception of immigrants. These measures enjoyed full parliamentary support. Democrats were the sole exception. For those who are skeptical or criticize this generous approach this was the only possible alternative”. How will Socialists & Democrats manage to lead the Country? “Prime Minister-elect Stefan Löfvén said he will seek bipartisan solutions and compromises with the political parties of the previous legislature. For the moment, his proposal was received with polite coldness, but things could change by seeking wide coalitions, for example, thereby excluding the Democrats’ influence. I doubt that this strategy will be successful, but it depends on the will of small centre parties and of the Liberals to turn a new page and dissolve their old alliances with the more conservative Right. I envisage a period of political turbulence…” What could be the impact of this political phase on the population, on social behavior, notably on immigration-related themes? “There is the risk of an extremist political climate in which anti-immigration forces feel they have opportunities. Their opponent, the radical Left, feels the need to respond by increasing its violent extra-parliamentary activity. It’s a rather frightening scenario”. The churches made “a silent electoral campaign” on this point in particular, showing what a multicultural and welcoming community could be like through their commitment. Is their work bound to be more difficult from now on? “I don’t think so. Sweden is already an extremely multicultural society. It’s a relentless development. But the efforts of churches, mosques and synagogues will be increasingly important in the case of tensions within civil society”. What has disappointed the Swedish population regarding the past? “Rather than a virtual disappointment it’s a description of reality. Sweden has overcome the economic crisis in a laudable way, but the left has given a convincing picture of the old welfare system torn apart by liberal wolves. Not to mention the fact that it is ever more rare that the same government is elected for three times in a row. A natural element of tiredness is always present among the voters”. What could be the implications of the vote on the role of Sweden in Europe? “I don’t think it will have any at all. There is wide consensus on the fact that Sweden is in the European Union with an active role”.

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