Sweden joins Europe’s move to right over migration backlash

Prime minister and party leader of the Social Democrat party Stefan Löfven waves at an election party in Stockholm, Sweden, Sunday, Sept. 9, 2018. (Claudio Bresciani/TT via AP)  

STOCKHOLM (AP) — Sweden has become the latest European country to have its political order shaken by a backlash against large-scale immigration, with voters giving a boost to a far-right party and weakening the more established ones.

Sunday's election left the two rival blocs — a center-left group and a center-right alliance — with roughly 40 percent of the vote each, portending what is likely to be weeks of uncertainty and complex coalition talks before a new government can be formed.

Advertisement

The Sweden Democrats, which has roots in a neo-Nazi movement but has worked to soften its image, won 17.6 percent, up from 13 percent in 2014, for a third-place finish. That showing is not strong enough for it to lead a government, but it reflects how deeply that Sweden, famous for its progressive policies, is being transformed by migration.

The country that is home to the Nobel prizes and militarily neutral policies for the better part of two centuries has been known for its comparatively open doors to migrants and refugees.

Sunday's general election was the first since Sweden, with a population of 10 million, took in a record 163,000 migrants in 2015 — the highest per capita of any European country.

That had followed the earlier arrival of hundreds of thousands of asylum seekers.

Since 2015, the center-left government has sharply restricted immigration, but many Swedes complain that society cannot cope with integrating so many newcomers, many of them Muslims from Africa and the Middle East.

The growing strength of the Sweden Democrats also reflects how old taboos are collapsing.

The growing strength of the Sweden Democrats also reflects how old taboos are collapsing.

Only a few years ago, Swedes would be shunned as racist for suggesting the country had limits on how many migrants it should take, or for expressing the view that it is hard to integrate Africans and Arabs. But people increasingly are expressing such ideas more freely — adding to the support for the party.

While the result is a boost for the Sweden Democrats, the party fell short of pre-election predictions.

The Expressen tabloid said in editorial that "it all pointed at the Sweden Democrats taking over the position as Sweden's second-biggest party. But the expected ... bang didn't happen."

The election came after populist and anti-migrant parties made significant political gains in Germany, Austria and Italy since 2015 — the other countries that have shouldered the heaviest burden of accommodating those fleeing war and conflict or simply searching for a better life elsewhere.

Sweden also gained international scrutiny after U.S. President Donald Trump portrayed the country as place where multiculturalism has brought crime and insecurity.

In early 2017, Trump claimed that a terrorist attack had happened the previous night in Sweden. The night, in fact, had been quiet, but Trump had seen a Fox News report about crime by immigrants in Sweden. He has insisted that he is still right about the general picture of the country as one where large-scale migration has brought security threats.

 

That narrative of Sweden as a failed multicultural experiment is also pushed by some on the right in Europe. While some Swedes say there is some truth to that, others feel it is too exaggerated and ignores the fact that Sweden is a place with a strong economy where many things work very well.

Both the left-leaning bloc led by the Social Democrats and the center-right bloc, in which the Moderates is the largest of four parties, have said they would refuse to consider the Sweden Democrats as a coalition partner.

Prime Minister Stefan Lofven, who brought the Social Democrats to power in 2014, said he intended to remain in the job. His party emerged with the greatest share of the vote — 28.4 percent as the count neared completion — yet is looking at holding fewer seats in parliament than four years ago.

Lofven told his supporters the election presented "a situation that all responsible parties must deal with," adding that "a party with roots in Nazism" would "never ever offer anything responsible but hatred."

"We have a moral responsibility. We must gather all forces for good. We won't mourn, we will organize ourselves," he said.

Comments are automatically closed two weeks after an article's initial publication. See our comments policy for more.
Stuart Meisenzahl
2 months ago

Sweden like its other Nordic Neighbors has a relatively small ethnically homogeneous population which underlies and binds together it's very substantial social safety net and acceptance of the very very high tax rates required for its support.
Mixing in a group of migrants dependent on that social net and whose own ethnicity encompasses practices, values and mores at odds with those of its hosts is inevitabily a volitale combination which is reflected in the recent election.
What the hosts consider generosity , the guests view as entitlement.
To label this as a Nazi based reaction strikes me as more than a reach. The Swedes are reacting to ingratitude not out of a sense of superiority

Advertisement

The latest from america

“This hypothesis—that the reality of personal sexual misconduct by bishops...was a factor which inclined some bishops not to vigorously pursue allegations of abuse among their clergy—I believe that this is a valid hypothesis.”
Kevin ClarkeNovember 12, 2018
Cardinal Daniel N. DiNardo of Galveston-Houston, center, leads the opening prayer Nov. 12 during the fall general assembly of the U.S. Conference of Catholic Bishops in Baltimore. Also pictured are Archbishop Jose H. Gomez of Los Angeles, vice president of the USCCB, and Msgr. J. Brian Bransfield, general secretary. (CNS photo/Bob Roller)
U.S. bishops tell the authors of a groundbreaking new book that they feel a duty to speak out on issues of the day, but they must tread carefully with a secular press and fallout from the sexual abuse crisis.
The Vatican has asked them to delay the vote until after a February meeting in Rome with the heads of bishops conferences from around the world to discuss sexual abuse.
Michael J. O’LoughlinNovember 12, 2018