Sweden’s parliamentary elections expose the country’s issues with racist exceptionalism

by , under Enrique Tessieri

Sweden heads for the polls on Sunday to elect 349 seats to the Riksdag (parliament). Despite the good showing in the polls of the far-right Sweden Democrats, which has roots in the neo-Nazi movement, is slated to capture 20% of the votes.

The rise in popularity of the Sweden Democrats has been fast and a reminder that Sweden continues to have serious unresolved issues with racism. 

The Sweden Democrats entered the Riksdag in 2010 for the first time with 20 MPs (5.7%), and four years later they more than doubled the number of MPs to 49 (12.9%). 

Contrary to other Nordic countries like Norway, Denmark, and Finland, Sweden has refused to cooperate with anti-immigration parties. There are some signs that this may change with parties like the conservative Moderates offering an olive branch last year to the Sweden Democrats. 

Since Finland is a close neighbor to Sweden, a good showing by the Sweden Democrats in Sunday’s election could boost the populist anti-immigration Perussuomalaiset.* Finland has parliamentary elections in April 2019. 

The parliamentary elections of September 9 are exposing Sweden’s dark side. Source: The Local.

The interesting question to ask with respect to the rising popularity of the Sweden Democrats, and ever-growing xenophobia in what is probably one of Europe’s liberal countries, why are we in this political bind? 

Many factors are at play. One of these is Swedish exceptionalism, which portrays a myth of a white near-perfect society until migrants arrived and ruined it all.

What surprises me a lot is how migrants are being singled out as “the problem” and “cause” of Sweden’s problems. How many politicians are asking how the dismantling of the social welfare state, rising discrimination, social exclusion and the lack of political will to tackle these social ills are at the heart of the problem?

Scapegoating migrants for Sweden’s woes is punching below the belt and turning one’s back on the country’s more serious problems like social inequality. 

Even if there are some troubling question marks of US President Barack Obama’s foreign policy and that his administration deported 2.5 million people, or more than any other president in US history, he does have a point in the following quote:

“Appealing to tribe, appealing to fear, pitting one group against another, telling people that order and security would be restored if it weren’t for those who don’t look like us, or don’t sound like us, or don’t pray like we do – that is an old playbook, it’s old as time.”

Sunday’s election result in Sweden will reveal a lot of ugly things about the country that we knew but which politicians rarely acknowledged. One of them is racism, social inequality, and exclusion. 

Despite assurances by Nordic countries of social equality, each country in northern Europe has seen the rise of hostile anti-immigration parties that target migrants and minorities. Apart from Sweden, such parties share power in government in Norway (Progress Party), in Denmark (Danish People’s Party), and in Finland (Perussuomalaiset, today Blue Reform). 

All of these populist parties miss the mark by a long shot because migrants and minorities are not the main cause of these countries’ woes. 

* The Perussuomalaiset (PS) party imploded on June 13 into two factions, the PS and New Alternative, which is now called Blue Reform. Despite the name changes, we believe that it is the same party in different clothing. Both factions are hostile to cultural diversity. One is more open about it while the other is more diplomatic.

A direct translation of Perussuomalaiset in English would be something like “basic” or “fundamental Finn.” Official translations of the Finnish name of the party, such as Finns Party or True Finns, promote in our opinion nativist nationalism and racism. We, therefore, at Migrant Tales prefer to use in our postings the Finnish name of the party once and after that the acronym PS.