The end of the ‘Swedish model’

By Jane West

Map of Sweden

Photo: mrlerone/Toby Bradbury
Far-right registers huge success in Sweden

The far-right Sweden Democrats party almost doubled its share of the vote in Sweden’s election last Sunday, winning its first seats in Parliament by breaching the 4 per cent threshold for representation with its 5.7 per cent of the vote. Its previous highest vote was 2.9 per cent in the 2006 elections.

Even more disturbing is the fact that the party potentially holds the balance of power in the Swedish Parliament.
While the elections were a victory for the ruling centre-right Alliance coalition, led by Prime Minister Reinfeldt’s Moderates, they were denied an overall majority. The Alliance’s 49.2 per cent of the vote was not enough for a Parliamentary majority under Sweden’s proportional representation system, giving them 172 of 349 seats in the legislature. The Sweden Democrats won 20.

The Sweden Democrats’ origins are as an overtly neo-Nazi organization. Its current leader, Jimmie Akesson, has attempted to reposition the party as a ‘respectable’ but extremely right-wing, anti-immigration and anti-equalities party. As well as whipping up support through Islamophobia – claiming that Muslim immigration is the greatest threat to Sweden since the Second World War – the party also opposes anti-discrimination measures for the northern Swedish Sami ethnic minority.

While the breakthrough for the Sweden Democrats had been predicted, it met widespread shock in Sweden, as it was the first time that the extreme right had achieved electoral success in the country.

The success of the extreme right in Sweden fits into an on-going pattern of rising support for the extreme right across Europe, given a boost since the financial crisis as the media and mainstream politicians whip up Islamophobia, anti-Roma sentiment and racism generally to divide the working class in the face of capital’s assault on living standards and welfare protection.

Some signs of a left polarisation in response to this was also seen in the Swedish elections, with the best ever results for the Greens, with 7.2 per cent of the vote. They are now being courted by Reinfeldt to allow him to form a government without having to rely on the Sweden Democrats.

The Swedish Social Democrats, which had formed the government in Sweden for 68 of the last 75 years, while just the largest single party, with 30.9 per cent, 1 per cent ahead of the Moderates, won its smallest share of the vote since 1914. It campaigned in the election as part of a ‘red-green’ alliance with the Greens.