Sweden’s Social Democrats reclaim power, as far right gains

Agence France-Presse

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Sweden’s Social Democrats reclaim power, as far right gains


The anti-immigrant Sweden Democrats more than doubled their votes, to 12.9%, becoming the Nordic country's third-largest party and striving for a role as 'absolute kingmaker' in the legislature

STOCKHOLM, Sweden – A left-leaning coalition led by Sweden’s opposition Social Democrats defeated the incumbent center-right government in Sunday’s (September 14) general election, while the far right was headed for historic gains.

The anti-immigrant Sweden Democrats more than doubled their votes, to 12.9%, becoming the Nordic country’s third-largest party and striving for a role as “absolute kingmaker” in the legislature.

The election set the stage for a bid by the Social Democrats’ leader Stefan Loefven to form a coalition government with the Greens and the former communist Left Party.

“I am ready to start exploring possibilities to form a new government for Sweden,” the 57-year-old former trade unionist told jubilant supporters in Stockholm when his win was confirmed.

With 99.9% of all districts counted, the red-green coalition had garnered a total of 43.7% of the vote.

This compared with 39.3% for the four-party conservative-liberal Alliance led by incumbent Prime Minister Fredrik Reinfeldt.

‘We didn’t make it’

Reinfeldt, prime minister for the past 8 years, conceded defeat late Sunday with the vote counting almost complete.

“We didn’t make it,” the 49-year-old leader of the Moderates party told supporters in Stockholm, adding he would hand in his resignation Monday, September 15.

His challenger Loefven ran on a pledge to narrow a growing income gap, which has worried many in traditionally egalitarian Sweden, while also vowing to improve the schools and invest more on infrastructure.

“The Swedish people have turned their backs on tax cuts and privatizations as the solutions to all social problems,” Loefven told his supporters Sunday after his victory was confirmed.

While he was ahead in the polls throughout the campaign, he had warned against complacency, and on the eve of the election admitted that the Sweden Democrats could end up in a pivotal position in the new parliament.

The far-right Sweden Democrats were a virtual non-entity less than a decade ago, and only entered parliament in the 2010 election, winning 5.7% of the vote and 20 seats in the 349-seat legislature.

Sunday’s result, which will more than double their presence in the parliament to 49 seats, is a major triumph for its leader, 35-year-old Jimmie Aakesson.


“We’re the absolute kingmaker now,” Aakesson said in front of jubilant supporters in the Swedish capital.

He told broadcaster SVT that the other parties, which have refused to negotiate with the Sweden Democrats in parliament since 2010, “can’t ignore us the way they have ignored us over the past four years.”

“You have to be able to govern this country for four years, and it’s going to be hard if they are not prepared to talk to us or listen to us.”

Aakesson has carried out a lengthy campaign to clean up the party’s image as a fringe phenomenon, expelling members whose xenophobic remarks have contributed to its racist reputation.

However, Loefven immediately threw cold water on the Sweden Democrats’ aspirations of becoming a “normal” party.

“Even if the Sweden Democrats have now obtained a higher result, there will be no cooperation with them,” Loefven said. “We will make sure they don’t get that kingmaker role.”

Outgoing Prime Minister Reinfeldt has been widely credited with steering the country through the global financial crisis, consolidating Sweden’s position as one of the healthiest economies in Europe.

Despite these accomplishments, the Swedes yearn for fresh faces at the top, according to observers, citing this as a main reason for the center-right’s changing electoral fortunes.

Anti-immigrant views

Meanwhile, the Sweden Democrats’ huge advances are seen as a result of growing concerns in Sweden over an accelerating influx of refugees, with up to 90,000 expected to travel to the Nordic country this year.

“I like their policy on immigration and for the elderly,” said Madeleine Filipiak, a 20-year-old bartender who voted for the Sweden Democrats.

She said government policies on immigration had gone too far: “We can’t afford it.”

The electoral breakthroughs for the Sweden Democrats confirms a Europe-wide trend of soaring popularity for populist right-wing parties.

The eurosceptic Alternative for Germany, which has flirted with populist positions on immigration and law and order, made gains in elections Sunday in the eastern states of Thuringia and Brandenburg. – Rappler.com

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