Sweden shifting to the right?

In the run-up to the Swedish parliamentary elections on Sunday everything points to a deadlock. Polls indicate that both the left and the conservative Alliance will have difficulties obtaining a majority. The right-wing populist Sweden Democrats look set to garner roughly 20 percent of the vote. Commentators examine what such a result could mean for the country.

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Süddeutsche Zeitung (DE) /

Sweden at a turning point

A success for the Sweden Democrats would take Sweden in an entirely new direction, the Süddeutsche Zeitung puts in:

“In all the neighbouring countries the right-wing populists are part of the government or support it. In Sweden, however, they've been isolated until now. In Scandinavia, minority governments are the norm, and for every decision they have to seek new majorities. When the Sweden Democrats, as the third strongest party, silently supported a proposal in parliament, for the most part no one complained. Outwardly, however, the message was clear: no deals with the far right. If the party now secures 20 percent or more of the vote, that will be hard to maintain. Up to now Sweden has been different. The question is whether that will still be the case after Sunday.”

Upsala Nya Tidning (SE) /

New elections also a possibility

It's completely unclear what a government could look like in the run-up to Sunday's vote, Upsala Nya Tidning comments:

“The Centre Party and the Liberals have slammed the door in the Sweden Democrats' faces, nevertheless in principle they're open to cooperation with parties outside their camp. The same goes for [Social Democratic Prime Minister] Löfven, but only if he remains head of government. ... If everyone does what they are saying they will do, the Swedes will have to go to the polls again in just a few months. But such a scenario would only benefit those on the political fringes, namely the Left Party and the Sweden Democrats. For that reason one of the other parties should change their stance.”

La Repubblica (IT) /

Left adopting the topics of the right

The red-green government bears part of the responsibility for the rise of the right, political scientist Nadia Urbinati argues in La Repubblica:

“The social democratic elites have underestimated the problems of 'identity' and 'security', two issues that the Sweden Democrats are cleverly exploiting. This is not about the level of prosperity which is also guaranteed for immigrants, but about the culture and language - two values that in the view of the Sweden Democrats are under threat. Yet integration in Sweden is not left to chance but conscientiously regulated - precisely in order to protect national and social values. But in order to fight the right-wing opposition, social democratic governments have adopted a policy of closed borders. The left may win the election but it is moving closer and closer to the right.”

Dagens Nyheter (SE) /

More and more influence

The prospect of the Sweden Democrats gaining major influence over Swedish policies is entirely realistic, warns Dagens Nyheter:

“In the past we spoke of the Sweden Democrats increasingly being perceived as normal by the general public. This is no longer the issue; that process is for the most part completed. Now the issue is whether they will gain influence over government policy. ... What will it sound like when this party demands power? It promises 'real changes' - and we should take this extremely seriously. ... So far we have talks above all about the Sweden Democrats' [Nazi] roots. But this is no longer the main problem. What we must now fear is not this party's past, but its future.”

Jyllands-Posten (DK) /

Parties can grow stronger on the sidelines

Historian Lars Hovbakke Sørensen explains in a guest commentary in Jyllands-Posten why the Sweden Democrats has been able to mobilise so many people:

“One key factor is the refugee crisis of 2015. Back then Sweden took in far more refugees than most other European countries. But another important factor is that many established Swedish parties - even though they too have adopted tougher positions on asylum policy - still want to prevent the Sweden Democrats from gaining too much political influence. ... The experiences of numerous European countries show that when politicians start sidelining a specific party, a section of the voting public will give that party their support out of protest.”

888.hu (HU) /

At last someone who listens to the people

The Sweden Democrats are addressing important topics, the Hungarian national-conservative website 888.hu finds:

“In the opinion of the Sweden Democrats the immigrants are a burden on the social welfare state which the Social Democrats deem so worthy of protection. ... And then there's the question of public security, which is being ruined by the migrants - no matter what the opposing side claims. Just think of all the stabbings, gang wars and terrorist attacks that would have been unthinkable before the arrival of the Muslim migrants. In the end the Sweden Democrats can also build on the fact that scientific studies show that the citizens of this Scandinavian country haven't wanted any more immigration since the 1990s. Yet not a single government has taken any notice of this desire of the people so far.”

Aftonbladet (SE) /

Toleration will be costly

It's high time for the parties of the conservative Alliance to take a clear stance on whether they will accept the support of the Sweden Democrats after the parliamentary elections in September, Aftonbladet demands:

“The really big problem is that the four parties won't be able to carry out any of their proposals on their own. The Alliance parties need the support of the Sweden Democrats to push through their 'reform agenda', and that support won't be cheap. The question the partners of the Alliance still haven't agreed on is what it will mean to be dependent on the Sweden Democrats. Yet this is relevant for the formation of a government. Without a meaningful joint answer to this question, the four parties can't seriously describe themselves as a political bloc.”

Nordschleswiger (DK) /

The dilemma with right-wing populists

The Nordschleswiger draws attention to the differences between Denmark and Sweden in the way they deal with right-wing populists:

“In Denmark their arguments are treated as legitimate. After all, many voters support them. And indeed, this is a deeply democratic and decent stance. The problem: the goals of the 'right-wing populists' aren't always democratic or decent. The Swedes take that fact into account, the Danes don't. That's the difference. In Sweden right-wing populist views are still not accepted by a majority. In Denmark nationalist arguments are part of everyday life. In Sweden taboos often make it difficult to lead a constructive, critical debate without those who dare to speak their mind being branded as populist. In Denmark, by contrast, those who openly espouse cosmopolitan or humanist ideals are often called naive - or even verbally intimidated.”