After 30 Years of Exclusion, How Sweden’s Far-Right Has Become a Major Political Weight in Power

Murad Jandali | 2 years ago




Days after the unprecedented winning of the right-wing and far-right parties in the Swedish parliamentary elections held on September 11, 2022, the Swedish Prime Minister, Magdalena Andersson, acknowledged the defeat of her center-left bloc by a narrow margin, officially submitting her resignation.

Out of 349 seats in the Swedish Parliament, the right-wing bloc (Moderates, Liberals, Christian Democrats, and Sweden Democrats) got 176 seats, after counting the votes of about 7.5 million voters, which is a big blow to the Social Democratic Party which has ruled Sweden since 2014 and has dominated the political scene since the thirties of the last century.

The winning of the right-wing bloc, thanks to the far-right Sweden Democrats, would open a new political phase in Sweden, which receives refugee and immigrant groups every year, at a time when the country is preparing to assume the rotating presidency of the European Union, on January 01, 2023, and to complete the mechanism of its historic candidacy to join NATO.

It is noteworthy that the electoral campaigns of the parties in Sweden were dominated by issues that support the fortunes of the right-wing opposition, such as crime, bloody settlement of accounts between gangs, problems of immigrant integration, sharp increases in fuel and electricity bills, and others.


Unprecedented Results

The results of the vote counting in the Swedish parliamentary elections showed that the ruling Social Democratic Party (center-left) won first place with 29.3%, the anti-immigration Sweden Democrats (far-right) came in second with 20.5%, and the Moderates (conservative right) came in third with 18.8%.

Thus, the right-wing bloc parties won 49.2% of the votes and won 173 seats in the 394-seat parliament, while the ruling left-wing bloc parties won 49.8% of the votes to win 176 seats, according to the state-run SVT TV channel.

Following the unprecedented results, Magdalena Andersson, the leader of the Social Democratic Party and the first woman prime minister in Sweden last year, submitted her resignation after her left-wing bloc failed to obtain a majority in Parliament. Andersson is scheduled to take over as caretaker until the new government takes over.

Andersson said in a press conference on September 14, 2022, that it is now up to Parliament, and its speaker Andreas Norlen, to oversee the process of forming a new government in Sweden, Anadolu Agency reported.

She noted that her door is still open for her opponent, Ulf Kristersson, leader of the Moderate Party (center-right) in case he changes his mind and decides to work with her Social Democratic Party, instead of the far-right Sweden Democrats.

The position of prime minister in Sweden traditionally belongs to the first party in the victorious coalition, but the traditional right-wing parties oppose the appointment of ministers from the Sweden Democrats and will be even more strongly opposed to them becoming prime minister.

In order to appoint a prime minister, he must obtain an absolute majority of votes in favor, provided that the number of opponents does not reach 145 votes.

Next week, the Speaker of Parliament is expected to formally assign Kristersson, who led this unprecedented rapprochement between the right-wing parties and the Sweden Democrats, the task of forming a new government.

Kristersson announced on September 14 that he would immediately begin the task of forming a new and strong government and restore order in Sweden, a country of 10.3 million people.

He faces the challenge of reaching an agreement that brings together four parties ranging from the center-right to the far-right, and they differ among themselves on many issues.


Swedish Pariah Party

The far-right Sweden Democrats were born out of the neo-Nazi movement in 1988, it is hostile to foreigners and immigrants and has demanded their expulsion from Sweden.

Having long been a pariah marginal party, it entered parliament after winning 5.7% of the vote in 2010, then increased to 17.5% in 2018, and reached 20.5% in 2022.

Over the past years, it managed to expand its presence among the working classes and retirees by intimidating the presence of foreigners on job opportunities and the level of social welfare.

It is noteworthy that never before has a Swedish government relied on the support of the Sweden Democrats, which came out as the biggest winner in the elections, as it has a political weight that cannot be ignored in Parliament and its balances.

It is also the first time that the far-right has been invited to coalition talks after three decades in which political parties have been keen to exclude them from governing the country, The Times reported on September 15, 2022.

After the election result was announced, Jimmie Akesson, the leader of the Sweden Democrats, wrote in a post on his Facebook page: “It is time to get rid of the failed policy of the Social Democratic Party, which has misled the country for eight years. It is time to raise Sweden to number one.”

The Guardian reported in its report on September 16 that the winning of the right-wing coalition in these elections heralds very difficult negotiations to form the new government because the far-right parliamentary bloc is the largest in the coalition.

Although the Liberals and the Christian Democrats had advocated during the election campaign the idea of cooperation with the far-right to form the government and the possibility of giving the far-right party a secondary portfolio.

However, the results came to make the Sweden Democrats the weighting force in the right-wing coalition, which prompted their leader to demand a central role in the new government, which is very unlikely to be approved by the coalition parties, especially the Liberal Party.

The far-right knows that the Liberals will not back down from their refusal to participate in a government that includes representatives from the Sweden Democrats or even support it in Parliament.

Some recent statements by Akesson suggested that his party does not rule out staying outside the government, in exchange for a pledge to implement some of its demands, noting that his demand to participate in the government is an entry into the formation negotiations and not an ultimatum.

It should be noted that the right has ruled in Sweden only four times since 1932.

The right-wing parties had collectively won the last elections in 2018 and obtained a majority in Parliament, but they did not enter into negotiations to form a government because of the veto that was imposed on cooperation with the far-right.

Analysts expected that a government of Moderates, Christian Democrats, and Liberals would be formed and that the far-right party would be satisfied with participating, whether directly or indirectly, with the majority in parliament.

In another exciting scenario, observers believe that the right-wing bloc may be subject to fragmentation if the far-right insists on taking over the prime ministership or obtaining several ministerial portfolios in proportion to the result it achieved in the elections, which could lead to the escape of the Liberal Party, which won 16 seats in parliament, to the left-wing bloc and the return of Andersson to the prime minister.


Hostile Policies

Over the past months, immigration policies in Sweden have dominated the political platforms of the parties participating in the parliamentary elections that were held on September 11, 2022.

Indeed, the right-wing and far-right parties in Sweden have benefited from attracting voters by criticizing the policy of receiving immigrants, which was approved by the center-left government.

On its part, The Guardian on September 16, 2022, dealt with the electoral earthquake caused by the entry of the far-right to the elections in Sweden, due to the hostility of this ideological current to immigration and immigrants.

The newspaper reported that the Sweden Democrats seek to create one of the most hostile environments in Europe for non-Europeans and make obtaining asylum almost impossible.

The Guardian considered that this electoral result allowed a party that the government considered a neo-fascist to move closer to power.

In turn, David Crouch, a prominent British journalist working in Sweden, told Anadolu Agency, “The Sweden Democrats have succeeded in shifting the political spectrum to the right, which prompted a large part of the center-right and center-left parties to adopt the far-right vision on immigrants and refugees.”

According to Mr. Crouch, voter support for the far-right has risen sharply in the past decade, when Sweden began to receive large numbers of asylum seekers from the Middle East, Asia, and Africa.

The head of the Swedish Institute for Security and Development, Anna Wieslander, told the New York Times on September 15 about the far-right's gains that their success somehow was not surprising.

“The reason for this is that no government has really dealt with the issue of immigration, which has been around for years, and which is affecting society more and more now that crime has been linked to immigrant groups,” she explained.


Scary Rise

According to the BBC reported on September 16, the arrival of the far-right to a majority in Sweden is the penultimate leg of the rise of nationalist parties in many European countries.

Attention now turns in this context to Italy, where a coalition between the right and the far-right also leads in the opinion polls, ahead of elections scheduled for September 25.

Although nationalist ideas are always present in European politics, the high levels of support for far-right parties and their hard-line populist ideas are relatively recent.

In Germany, the AfD is the largest opposition party with 89 seats in the Bundestag, while in France, the National Rally led by Marine Le Pen recently won an unprecedented 89 seats to deny Emmanuel Macron a majority in the National Assembly.

In Hungary, Viktor Orban’s Fidesz led to a fourth consecutive majority, and similarly, the Finns Party in Finland, the Conservative People's Party of Estonia (EKRE), the Law and Justice Party in Poland, the Vox Party in Spain, and the Freedom Party of Austria (FPÖ) are also right-wing parties have made significant gains recently.

The rise of the far-right in Europe coincided with the rise in hostility to Muslims, or what has become known as Islamophobia, a phenomenon based on stereotyping of immigrant Muslims and promoting the idea that they are not integrated into their societies and that they constitute hotbeds of terrorism.

What increases the concerns of the Muslim communities in Europe is that some governments and their political parties seek to outbid what the far-right parties propose by adopting a discourse that identifies with the discourse of those parties and taking steps against immigrants, especially Muslim communities, with the aim of gaining additional votes.