Far-Right Gains Ground in Sweden

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An anti-immigration party in Sweden has won seats in parliament for the first time, in the latest sign that far-right parties are gaining ground in Europe.

The Sweden Democrats (SD), which has described growth of the country’s Muslim minority as the biggest foreign threat since the Second World War, won 20 seats in Sunday’s parliamentary elections, leaving the two main blocs without a majority.

The centre-right governing coalition, which won 49.3 per cent of the vote, has ruled out any negotiations with the far-right group, and said it would instead look to the Green Party for support.

“I have been clear … We will not co-operate with or be made dependent on the Sweden Democrats,” Fredrik Reinfeldt, the prime minister and leader of the Moderate Party, said after falling just three seats short of a majority.

But the leaders of the Green Party, which scored its best election result ever, appeared hesitant to a partnership with the centre-right.

“The mandate we’ve got from voters doesn’t allow us to become a support party for a government which climate policy makes the climate goals unreachable for another 200 years,” Maria Wetterstrand, co-chairwoman of the Green Party, told a news conference.

“No one from the [centre-right] Alliance has been in touch with us, neither now or earlier,” Peter Eriksson, the other co-chair, said.

The Social Democrats, which for the first time had created a coalition with the Green and Left parties to increase its chances of winning power, suffered a historic loss, winning just 30.9 per cent of the vote, down from 35.3 per cent in 2006.

Critics protesting

Many voters expressed disappointment that the Sweden Democrats won seats in the legislature and rallies against the party were held in Stockholm on Monday.
The SD, which has been celebrating their historic entry into parliament, has dismissed fears that the party could cause legislative chaos.
“We won’t cause problems. We will take responsibility. That is my promise to the Swedish people,” Jimmie Akesson, the party’s 31-year-old leader, said.

The SD has campaigned on warnings of an Islamic “growing influence” in the country. Kent Ekeroth, its international secretary, said ethnic Swedes could become “second-class citizens”.

The party says immigration is draining the welfare system and wants to cut asylum and immigration by relatives of people already living in Sweden by 90 per cent.

Immigrants make up 14 per cent of the country’s population of 9.4 million, with the biggest group from neighbouring Finland, followed by Iraq, the former Yugoslavia and Poland.

The rise of the far-right in Sweden is the latest sign that anti-immigration sentiments appear to be growing across Europe.

In the Netherlands, the anti-immigration Freedom Party, which wants to ban the Quran and shut down Islamic schools, made big gains during the June elections.

Hungary’s far-right Jobbik party, which campaigned on anti-Semitism and anti-Roma sentiment, also entered parliament for the first time in April elections.

The French government has made headlines by launching a crackdown on Roma immigrants living in camps, while the parliament has voted in a bill that would ban face-covering veils in public.

Italy’s Northern League party, which is part of the coalition government, has also made strong gains in recent elections. Berlusconi’s government has passed tough laws allowing authorities to fine and imprison illegal immigrants.

Matthew Goodwin, a lecturer in politics at the University of Nottingham, Britain, told Al Jazeera the success of the SD “does reflect a broader trend both in Western – and increasingly Eastern Europe”.

“Sweden historically did not have a successful ring-wing party,” he said.

“Initially, the far-right campaigned very hard on the claim that immigrants and other minority groups were taking jobs and social housing.

But what we have seen over the last 20 years is a shift in the discourse of the far-right, really moving towards Islamophobia.”

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6 Responses

  1. Agneta Norberg

    September 21, 2010 7:17 pm

    That the rasist Swedish Democrats get entrance to the Swedish parliament is not a surprise, given the fact that the rightwing government,which has ruled the last four years, almost has dismanteled the wellfare state and the unemployment rate is skyrocketing. Analysts tell that those who voted for this party are young,white, unemployed workingclass men 22-35 year of age.Of course, we in Sweden, are as well exposed to the rightwing wave over Europe and a Socialdemocrat Party which has turned more and more to the right over the years. You can hardly identify what they really stands for-in any case not Socialists. So the rightwing party came away with calling themself The New Labour Party. It is Orwellian to say the least.But the resistance has already got started .Already on Monday, the day after the election, tens of thousands gathered in the middle of Stockholm to protest against the Swedish Democrats. Agneta Norberg member of the LeftParty in Stockholm/Sweden.

  2. William Wall

    September 22, 2010 7:55 am

    @ Agneta, I’m interested to have your analysis because I was under the impression that Sweden had begun to move in the neoliberal direction some years ago. You’ve confirmed it for me. It seems to me that a fringe politics of racist parties develops alongside neoliberalism. My suspicion is that the racist parties are necessary to neoliberalism because they help to break down class-consciousness and divide the working class. England is a case in point where the BNP and others suck up working-class activism and direct it away from the real cause of their problems towards other working class people who happen to have a different skin hue.
    Here in Ireland, apart from the casual racism of parties like FF and FG, there has never been a strong politically educated working class (or not since 1922), so the kind of racist drumming that goes on never seems to turn into a solid vote. Therefore neoliberalism in its Irish expression hasn’t needed that racist fringe to divert the political.

  3. Pope Epopt

    September 22, 2010 9:51 am

    Well, at least the Swedish Green Party is demonstrating a little more political nous and integrity than our own.

    The connection between neoliberalism and the far right is interesting. It isn’t hard to see why. Neoliberal ideology vigourously discounts social solidarity and universal equality, giving legitimacy to the exclusion of an out-group. Secondly, the poor get dramatically poorer and more insecure, and are invited to look for scapegoats.

    That there seems to be a powerful anti-body reaction to far right groups, at least in Europe, is hopeful.

  4. John Funmi.

    October 13, 2010 6:50 pm

    @William Wall.
    I reland is having more than its fair share of racism as it is an every day, every minute occurrence. from the ordinary folks on the street who yell abusive and racist insults at immigrants, to Caucasian Irish Taxi drivers who try to shunt-out “dark-skinned immigrants” from the Taxi rank and Caucasian taxi passengers who will jump all taxis driven by dark-skinned folks, to enter those way down the line, driven by Caucasian-skinned drivers!
    The Garda, though aware that racism is officially proscribed, find it difficult to hide when dealing with issues involving Irish people and immigrants. No matter what, the immigrant is assumed guilty (an the Irish innocent!) until the former can prove his innocence. They harass you at the point of entry, search your luggage like they have already established prima-facie case of drugs against you! Same with their Custom.
    As a student, l also witnessed racism from school tutors who by virtue of their education and exposure, are supposed to know better.
    The truth is, Irish people have suffered under British colonialism, just about every other member of the common wealth but Irish people seems to derive a kind of joy in “taking-it-out” on dark-skinned immigrants whom they erroneously think came to Ireland so that they can become Irish slaves, washing their toilets, no matter their level of prior education and work experience!
    The current recession and the quagmire Irish policy makers find themselves have further re-inforced their racist tendencies whereby they they blame their unemployment on immigrants!
    Dont we remember as far back as late 2004 when the then Minister for Justice in Ireland came on national TV to drive home homophobic fears down the throat of Irish people saying that immigrant children being given Irish citizenship will eventually enslave the Irish population in future….and of-course, the people voted to abolish it!
    Its just a question of time, as “general living conditions” worsen, they will look for an easy target to blame, who else if not immigrants?

  5. William Wall

    October 13, 2010 7:09 pm

    John, I agree with almost everything you say. I’ve seen the taxi-driver situation at first hand and some of the other stuff too, particularly the attitude of customs at airports. That said, plenty of “dark-skinned taxi drivers” are making a living, wo some people must travel with them – a hopeful sign perhaps. And certainly taxi-drivers have a bad reputation for prejudice. There’s one cab here in Cork that I refuse to get into because he’s a racist bastard who hates everyone from outside Ireland.
    The point I was making was entirely to do with political parties. I never intended to suggest that we weren’t as racist as the next country. My point was that as yet we haven’t had a party like the BNP which is specifically devoted to racism. I think the racism that you mention in relation to Fianna Fail is actually (for them) quite a casual thing – it’s useful in some constituencies to get some votes, and I have no doubt they don’t like ‘immigrants’, but I can’t see it turning into a major issue for them, bad and all as they are. I haven’t personally heard anyone blaming the current crisis on immigrants, that’s not to say that it isn’t being said, just that I haven’t heard it. I think it’s probably a side-issue. Most people blame the government and the banks.
    Ireland has been a relatively homogenous society for hundreds of years. there are parts of Ireland that never saw a black person until after 1990 – until then everyone was pink-skinned! As such, I think there’s still hope for us. This is all very new for Irish people, and perhaps we won’t jump the same way other countries have jumped. It’s just possible. I hope that one day we won’t notice skin colour at all – except perhaps when we fall in love with it! You may say I’m a fool and history shows that never happens, but I still hope.