Right-wing populist Swedish Democrats poised to gain in general elections

UPDATE — 9/9, 2:42 p.m. EDT: Exit polls in Sweden show the right-wing populist Democrats will finish second behind the ruling Social Democrat party in Sunday’s elections with just over 19 percent of the vote, compared to 26.2 percent for the Social Democrats.

 

Sweden’s 7.3 million voters will head to the polls at the end of the week to elect a new parliament and government to take the place of the Social Democrat coalition ruling since 2014.

Sweden is currently governed by Prime Minister Stefan Lofven, a Social Democrat leading a coalition binding his center-left party with the far-left Green party.

Despite the fact Social Democrats dominated the Nordic country’s government for close to a century, opinion polls are indicating Swedes are preparing to back the populist Sweden Democrat party in the Sept. 9 elections.

Although Sweden is experiencing some of the lowest unemployment rates in recent memory, inflation remains low, and government finances are relatively strong, opposition to immigration and concerns over healthcare are driving some voters into the populist-right camp.

Opinion polling ahead of next week’s elections reveal the Sweden Democratic party’s popularity has risen to 20 percent, up from 13 percent in 2014.

Additional polling demonstrates the ruling Social Democrats leading, but support dropping under 30 percent over the same time period.  Some polling uncovers support for Social Democrats falling close to 10 percentage points.

Outside of the influx of immigrants to Sweden, voters have also expressed a growing concern over rising violent crime and anxiety the nation’s welfare state is at risk.

Over the past several years, Sweden has experienced a number of violent attacks, including assaults with firearms and grenades, and the torching of 80 automobiles by masked youths in Gothenburg and several smaller towns weeks ago.

Despite the Social Democrats placing curbs on allowing asylum seekers entrance, immigration remains the key issue inspiring the rise of the right.

“When we talk about about Sweden and other Scandinavian countries you associate them with social democracy. But it seems like this era is going to end now. We have become more a country like everyone else. It’s a bastion of social democracy now maybe going to rubble. Something big is going on here.  People vote for Sweden Democrats for one reason and one reason only: immigration,” said Patrik Öhberg, an expert on Swedish politics from the University of Gothenburg.

Approximately 400,000 refugees have entered Sweden since 2012.

 

[AFP via France24] [Euronews] [Evening Standard] [Photo courtesy Kipper Central]