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Polling station in Sweden. Every party has its own slip. Yellow for parliament, blue for region and white for municipality. Photo: FWM

Anti-establishment sentiment grows in Sweden

The establishment parties dropped in yesterday’s election in Sweden, but far from what would be expected from early polls. The Social Democrats and Conservatives remain the biggest parties, with anti establishment Sweden Democrats at third place, growing from 12.9 to 17.6 percent. However, the party could still play an decisive role, since the difference between the socialist and conservative block is one single seat.

Published: September 10, 2018, 9:20 am

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    In Sunday’s election, the anti-immigration Sweden Democrats grew to 17.6 percent, but the collapse of the establishment parties expected from early polls did not manifest itself.

    According to preliminary results, the Social Democrats will stay the biggest party with 28.4 percent of the votes, with the conservative Moderaterna second at 19.8 percent. Both parties lost votes in comparison with the last election, 2.8 and 3.5 percent respectively, showing a growing anti-establishment sentiment in Sweden.

    However, this sentiment is much smaller than predicted by polls ahead of the election, and not as big as in comparable countries in Europe.

    The big question today is who is going to form a government, since the socialist and the conservative blocks are almost equally big, with 144 seats for the socialists and 143 for the conservatives. Social Democrat Prime Minister Stefan Löfven said that he was going to stay.

    The joker in the game is the Sweden Democrats (SD), an anti-immigration, eurosceptic party that is accused by the other parties to be “rightwing extremist”. It won 62 seats, but it has so far not been approached by any side for a possible coalition.

    The party has been boycotted by all the other parties in the parliament when it first entered parliament in 2010. They brand the anti-establishment party as being “racist”, although the Sweden Democrats sport black candidates. The main issue of the SD is to lower immigration to European levels, but at the same time they propagate an “open Swedishness”, which means that an immigrant can integrate and “become Swedish”.

    After the election of 2014, the socialist and the conservative block made an agreement called The December Contract, where the conservative block agreed not to vote against the socialist government in order to keep SD from influence. This was perceived by many as highly undemocratic and led to greater anti-establishment sentiment, with the SD rising in the polls.

    Ahead of the current election, the established parties accused each other of plans to cooperate with SD, with all vehemently denying the accusations. The Social Democrats even ran the slogan “Vote Social Democrat to be sure your vote is not for SD”.

    The Green party barely made it above the threshold of 4 percent, dropping from 6.7 to 4.3 percent. Besides environmental issues, the main topic for the Green party is open borders and acceptance of asylum seekers.

    During the immigrant wave of 2015, Sweden received over 160 000 asylum seekers. Every little town and village was overcrowded with refugees, with criminality, and especially rape and sexual harassment exploding. The Green party supported the immigration, which is believed to be the reason for the sharp drop in popularity.

    Sweden has a population of ten million, of which about two million are first or second generation migrants, mostly from non-European countries.

    The widespread immigration problems also led to the establishment of a new party, the Alternative for Sweden (AfS). Originally an offshoot from the SD, the AfS criticises the SD for being too liberal. The AfS brands them selves as the “repatriation party” with the aim of expelling at least a half million migrants from Sweden.

    The votes for newcomers like AfS are not counted separately in the preliminary results and will be presented later in the week. Instead, they end up in the pile of “other parties”. However, this pile only reached 1,5 percent, excluding the possibility of any new party reaching above the threshold of 4 percent.

    The electoral system in Sweden makes it difficult for new parties to get support from voters. Contrary to many other countries, who have one voting slip and where the voters marks his choice with a cross, Sweden has one slip for every party. The voter selects the slip representing his choice and hands it in in a sealed envelope. The established parties already in the parliament have their slips distributed to every of the 6 004 polling stations by state officials, while new parties have to deliver them by themselves.

    There is still a considerable number of votes to be counted, coming in from embassies abroad. These will be counted on Wednesday, and with the balance between the blocks being so narrow, these votes can prove to be decisive.

    vavra.suk@freewestmedia.com

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