Polls suggest further success for the anti-immigrant party in Sweden. But there is no cause for despair
The Swedish general election seems likely to produce a result nearly as unclear and emotionally charged as the Brexit referendum did in Britain. The traditional blocs on the left and right, which have tussled over power for nearly a century, have both been pushed aside by the populist and anti-immigrant Sweden Democrats (SD), who seem certain to hold the balance of power in parliament as they do now. No government can be formed without their cooperation unless other parties combined across their traditional blocs to form one whose main point is that it opposes the SD.
This would be a straightforward problem were it not that the Sweden Democrats are considered pariahs by all the other parties. In part this is because the SD has clear neo-Nazi roots. In part it is because the party’s simple message of ethno-nationalist nostalgia has a power that other parties have had a hard time countering. They are trying to face up to a difficult and uncertain future. The SD is simply appealing to a past in which Sweden was obviously (at least to Swedes) the best and richest country in the world. Those years were also those of the Social Democratic party’s dominance, and the SD’s rise has coincided with the collapse of the Social Democrats, who are in the latest polls heading for less than 20% of the vote, which would be their lowest total ever. It is also campaigning, both on the ground and in cyberspace, with an energy which other parties are finding hard to match.