Anti-EU party tipped to become kingmaker in the next coalition
The right-wing Sweden Democrats (SD) are surging in polls ahead of the Swedish general election on Sunday. The final YouGov poll suggests the party will win nearly 25 percent of the vote becoming the largest party in parliament, beating the ruling Social Democrats (SAP). So far, most polls show Sweden Democrats emerging as the second largest party.
Formed in 1988 as a Far-Right party, the Sweden Democrats have reinvented themselves under the leadership of Jimmie Akesson. The party entered the parliament in 2010, breaking the five-percent barrier for the first time. In the 2014 general election, the party received close to 12 percent of the vote. The European migrant crisis that began exactly three years ago in the autumn of 2015 catapulted the party to the center stage.
Despite varying poll numbers, the Sweden Democrats are likely to emerge as kingmakers after the weekend’s vote. As British newspaper The Independent explained:
Neither of Sweden’s main political blocs is likely to win a majority in an election on Sunday, giving the far-right Sweden Democrats a key role in shaping the next government. (…)
The Sweden Democrats have been clear they want influence over policy, particularly on immigration, in return for support.
“We are prepared to bring down any government we think is not leading Sweden in the right direction,” Sweden Democrats leader Jimmie Akesson told Reuters in a July interview.
Even the left-wing British daily The Guardian ruefully admitted that “[n]o government can be formed without [Sweden Democratic party’s] cooperation unless other parties combined across their traditional blocs to form one whose main point is that it opposes the SD.” Attributing the party’s success to a “simple message of ethno-nationalist nostalgia,” the newspaper admitted that “[e]ven on the most pessimistic forecasts, four out of five Swedes will vote against the SD.”
A scenario where rival political blocs come together to keep Sweden Democrats away from power would be unprecedented in the country’s history, but in recent years Europe has seen bizarre coalitions forged by the establishment parties to keep their right-wing opponents out of office. In the 2017 French presidential election, conservative Republican Party and ruling Socialist Party bowed out of the race in favor of the wild-card candidate Emmanuel Macron. In Germany, the rise of the right-wing Alternative for Germany (AfD) forced the arch-rivals, Merkel-led Christian Democratic bloc and Social Democrats, to enter a coalition. In the 2016 UK referendum, both the Conservative and Labour Parties officially backed the pro-EU stay campaign.
Sweden Democrats’ clout over a future governing coalition should set off alarm bells in Brussels. Ahead of the election, Akesson has renewed the party’s anti-EU stance. “We should renegotiate the terms of our membership of the EU and then the people should have their say,” Jimmie Akesson said. “Sweden election to spell nightmare for EU as anti-Brussels party set to be kingmaker,” the UK newspaper The Express predicted.
Sweden, a country of 10 million people, has taken 600,000 immigrants in past five years alone. With the country’s growing migrant population, predominantly from the Middle East and North African, Muslim immigrants have become a major voting bloc for the left-wing parties. In the run-up to the election, the Sweden Democrats accused Social Democrat candidates of carrying out a smear campaign against the party aimed at influencing Arabic and Somali speaking voters. Sweden’s public broadcaster Sveriges Radio reported:
Several Social Democrat candidates in local elections have been caught spreading misinformation online about their political rivals in Arabic and Somali.
Candidates for local elections in places like Örebro and Jönköping counties have posted false or misleading information about the center-right Moderates and the anti-immigration Sweden Democrats.
For example, in Örebro county, a Social Democrat candidate wrote online in Somali that if the four-party coalition known as the Alliance won September’s vote, it would cooperate with the Sweden Democrats and stop taking in refugees, close all mosques and convert Muslim children.
In Jönköping, newspaper Expressen reported, a candidate posted a warning on Facebook telling Muslims or voters with an Arab background not to support the Sweden Democrats or the Moderates.
Growing support for the nationalist and anti-mass immigration parties is part of a wider European trend. As Wall Street Journal suggested Wednesday: “Voters head to the polls for a national election on Sunday, and as in nearly every other recent European election the polls suggest that Swedes are set to rebel against mainstream parties, especially on immigration.”
The latest opinion polls project the Alternative for Germany (AfD) emerging as the second largest party in the country for the first time. Last week, Ireland saw the launch of a UKIP-style Irexit Freedom party, reviving the campaign for Ireland to leave the European Union. Anti-EU and anti-mass immigration parties have secure electoral victories in Italy, Austria, and most of the eastern European countries. In previous elections, Marine Le Pen’s Front National in France and Geert Wilders’ Dutch Freedom Party (PVV) posed a serious challenge to the establishment parties in their respective countries.
With anti-establishment and nationalist movements gaining momentum across Europe, the political elite in Brussels is set to face an uphill battle in the upcoming EU parliamentary elections scheduled for May 2019.
Video: Tucker Carlson and Nigel Farage on Sweden’s Immigration Crisis:
[Cover image via YouTube]
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