The Swedish election result not only showed a shift and set for a minority-left government, but historic gains made by the far-right Sweden Democrats. Conservative Moderat Prime Minister Fredrik Reinfeldt, who conceded defeat late Sunday, said he will hand in his resignation Monday after eight years in power.
Just like the anti-immigration Peerussuomalaiset (PS)* in 2011, the Sweden Democrats scored their best election victory to date by almost doubling their support to 12.9% (+29 MPs to 49MPs) from 5.7% (20 MPs) in 2010 in the 349-seat Riksdagen (parliament).
Like the PS, they too are today the third-largest party in parliament after the Social Democrats and Moderate Party.
The interesting question to ask is if the good showing of the Sweden Democrats will give a boost to the PS in next year’s elections.
An important matter to keep in mind when looking at far-right, populist and anti-immigration parties is that they are a reaction not a solution to our ever-growing cultural diversity.
Seats gained by different parties in the Swedish parliamentary elections. From left to right: Left Party (V), Social Democrats (S), Greens (MP), Sweden Democrats (SD), Center Party (C), Liberal Party (FP), Christian Democrats (KD) and Moderate Party (M).
Sweden’s new prime minister is Social Democrat Stefan Löfven faces a daunting task in forming the country’s next government.
“I’ll talk to other parties,” he was quoted as saying on The Local. “My hand is outstretched. I’ll talk to the Greens, but also to other parties.”
A coalition comprising of the Social Democrats, Left Party and the Greens only adds up to 43.8%, while a center-right coalition totals 39.3%. This means theoretically that the far-right anti-immigration party holds the balance of power.
“We’re the absolute kingmaker now,” said Sweden Democrat leader Jimmie Åkesson. “[You] can’t ignore us the way they have ignored us over the past four years.”
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Sweden’s incoming Prime Minister Löfven said he would continue to shun the far-right party as have done all mainstream parties.
Whether the policy of excluding the Sweden Democrats has worked or not remains to be seen. Mainstream parties in Finland have taken a different approach and even invited the PS to form part of government after the elections four years ago.
Even if the Sweden Democrats are heading north and the PS are heading south, it’s clear that a lot more has to be done to challenge right-wing populist anti-immigration sentiment. More leadership is needed especially from migrant and multicultural Swedes and Finns.
Did outgoing Prime Minister Reinfeldt’s pro-immigration statements and stance help the Sweden Democrats isn’t the point. The issue is that politicians must show leadership during difficult times and not look for scapegoats.
Parties like the National Coalition Party and Social Democrats have done a dismal job in challenging the rhetoric of parties like the Perussuomalaiset (PS).* The most recent baby carriage scandal by conservative MP Pia Kauma is a clear example how some mainstream politicians are flirting with xenophobia.
What do we have in Finland to show after almost four years of the PS in the opposition? Polarization of society, political scandals, strengthening of urban myths and racism – in sum, a country that appears to have lost its way.
How will the Swedish elections impact Finland’s elections in April?
Certainly it won’t hurt them.
* The Finnish name for the Finns Party is the Perussuomalaiset (PS). The English names of the party adopted by the PS, like True Finns or Finns Party, promote in our opinion nativist nationalism and xenophobia. We therefore prefer to use the Finnish name of the party on our postings.