Election result: Sweden shifts to the right

The right-wing bloc has won a narrow victory in Sweden's parliamentary elections. The Social Democratic head of government, Magdalena Andersson, has tended her resignation. Ulf Kristersson, leader of the Moderate Party, looks set to become the new prime minister, but to achieve a majority he needs the support of the right-wing populist Sweden Democrats. Commentators speculate on the consequences for Europe as a whole.

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La Stampa (IT) /

Sweden today, Italy tomorrow

For La Stampa things look bleak:

“A black wave is rolling over the Old Continent. It is the right wing that is growing everywhere. It is tearing down dams in Sweden, it is the collapse of a political myth: Ulf Kristersson's conservative 'Moderates' together with Jimmie Åkesson's soft neo-Nazi 'democrats' are triumphing in the cradle of social democracy and the Scandinavian model, of civil rights and gender equality, of workfare and multiculturalism. ... We really are in Finis Europae, which could be sealed in exactly one week by another epochal turnaround. If the polls are not wrong, Italy will become the first founding member state of the EU to be governed by a party directly descended from the extremist and post-fascist right.”

El País (ES) /

Contradictory effects

El País sees parallels between France, Sweden and Italy:

“The Swedish debate indicates where the narrative of the European democracies is heading: the lowest common denominator is immigration. ... The far right is eating up the conservatives. This already happened in France, it happened just now in Sweden, and it will probably happen in Italy, too. On the left the effect is exactly the opposite. ... While on the right the more radical parties like the SD are winning, on the left pragmatists like the social democrats are winning. ... For the right, the election campaigns are becoming more comfortable but the day-to-day business is growing more complex. They are winning, but they are not convincing.”

Ukrajinska Prawda (UA) /

Unacceptable to liberal minds

What has been the norm for years is being called into question in Sweden, writes Roman Horbyk of Örebro University in Ukrayinska Pravda:

“This is not just a shift to the right, this is a step beyond what has been the norm for Swedish politics for years. For the first time, the Sweden Democrats, a party with a highly dubious reputation, received the most votes on the right wing of the political spectrum. ... In the 1990s, skinheads were not taboo for this party. Since then, however, the Sweden Democrats have become far more moderate. ... What makes them unacceptable to liberal-minded Swedes, however, is their demands for drastic cuts in migration and asylum, harsher punishment for criminals, an end to the fight against climate change and Euroscepticism.”

The Observer (GB) /

All politics is local

It would be a mistake to interpret the election results in Sweden as a general trend, writes The Observer:

“Voting behaviour in different countries is influenced by personalities, events, timing, regional issues, party loyalties and electoral systems. In the end, all politics is local. That said, far-right populist parties are a pan-European problem that concerns all democrats. Common ground, and ideological conjunctions, can be found, for example, between Sweden, in Europe's far north, and Italy in the Mediterranean south. In both, radical right parties are on the up.”

De Volkskrant (NL) /

Sand in Europe's gears

The formation of a coalition that includes the far-right Sweden Democrats is worrying, warns De Volkskrant:

“Liberal democracy, and above all respect for fundamental rights and the protection of minorities, is not in safe hands with the far right. ... The outcome of the elections in Sweden highlights once more the fragmentation of the political landscape in many European countries. ... More and more member states are governed by an unstable coalition. The problem will become even greater if the influence of nationalist parties increases, as they tend to see concessions under European cooperation as an encroachment on national interests. The risk of sand getting into the European gears thus escalates.”

Der Tagesspiegel (DE) /

A reverberating drumbeat

A government that includes the Sweden Democrats should serve as a warning to Europe, stresses Der Tagesspiegel:

“Let's not kid ourselves: the danger is everywhere. In other Scandinavian countries, see the 'True Finns', for example, in the countries around Germany, in Belgium with 'Vlaams Belang', in the Netherlands with Geert Wilders, in France with Marine Le Pen - and that list is not complete. It wouldn't be anyway without the AfD right here in Germany. ... All basically centrist parties must learn from this, especially the centre-left ones. ... The people's need for security must be respected, even in liberal communities. ... Those who want to achieve tolerance for the new, the foreign, must be clearer in their actions. The time has come. The drumbeat in Sweden is reverberating throughout Europe.”

Hämeen Sanomat (FI) /

Sweden Democrats have become acceptable

Certain topics are now being debated by all parties, Hämeen Sanomat observes:

“A big issue in the Swedish election campaign was gang violence. It helped the Sweden Democrats win the election and prompted other parties to woo the public with tougher positions on the issue. The centre-right bloc's cooperation with the Sweden Democrats in the elections indicated that they were becoming an acceptable choice. ... The election result shows that the time for sugar-coating the issue is over. The problems of immigration and their solutions have become part of the Swedish political debate - regardless of whether the Sweden Democrats are in government or not.”

Der Standard (AT) /

Stubborn partisanism

Cooperation with the extreme right will hardly bring stability to the country, warns Der Standard:

“Now the far-right Sweden Democrats have a foot in the door to power. The Nordic EU country is facing politically uncertain times. Whether the narrow victory of the centre-right will produce a stable government is far from certain. ... What has long been integral to pragmatic coalition-building in other countries, namely cooperation between moderate parties across ideological boundaries, has so far been taboo in Stockholm. So it is the right-wing extremists who are offering their services as kingmakers for the centre-right. It is doubtful that they care about stability.”

Upsala Nya Tidning (SE) /

Social Democrats and Moderates make a good team

In view of the key issues Swedish society faces Upsala Nya Tidning calls for cooperation in the political centre:

“The energy crisis, the security crisis, NATO membership and the looming recession: the 'Magda and Ulf' duo [Andersson and Kristersson] mastered the pandemic and the path to a NATO membership application so well together that they have developed a solid respect for each other, which was also prevailed in the final debates of the election campaign. Before winter, the Swedes will need such statesmanship more than ever.”

Aftonbladet (SE) /

A worrying turning point

Aftonbladet worries:

“Never before has Sweden experienced an election campaign in which racism was so visible, authoritarian reflexes so accepted, and lying so intense. Our country is better than what we have just witnessed. ... This is the beginning of a different Sweden. ... Last Sunday, one out of two Swedes voted for a different future. They deserve a constructive, clear and effective opposition policy. In the Riksdag - but also in public debate.”

Sydsvenskan (SE) /

The economy will suffer

Sydsvenskan worries about the country's economy in view of looming political instability:

“It will be difficult to form a government on a stable basis. The economic policy scare word stagflation - strong inflation and high unemployment - appears on the wall. ... Sweden needs a finance minister who has a firm grip on both finances and the government.”

Polityka (PL) /

Sweden Democrats are not ethno-nationalists

Polityka advises against making sweeping judgements about the successful Sweden Democrats:

“The Sweden Democrats should not be lumped together with other European national populist parties. They are far more conservative-oriented, and focus more on economic protectionism. Also because ethno-nationalism has no tradition in this country: Swedes have never fought wars over their national identity. The far right has reinvented itself - and achieved good results by doing so. And this is the most important lesson Europe should learn from the Swedish elections.”

Dagens Nyheter (SE) /

Conservatives on the wrong track

By not ruling out an alliance with the Sweden Democrats for the first time, the conservative parties are playing a dangerous game, Dagens Nyheter warns:

“The risk is clear that in the long run the Swedish conservatives will follow the same path as the American right. They hoped to get support from radical forces and be able to control them, but in the end they were swallowed up by them. ... Sweden will probably have a very weak government. ... The rift between the parties is extremely deep. ... On top of this is what appears to be a wafer-thin majority - 175 seats to 174 according to the count on election night.”

Krytyka Polityczna (PL) /

Centre-left coalition would be problematic

The alternative to a right-wing or left-wing government would also have its pitfalls, warns Krytyka Polityczna:

“Stability could only be guaranteed by a grand coalition of the Moderates and the victorious Social Democrats. Such a solution seems the most reasonable, but it has never been practised in Sweden and would be politically very problematic for both parties. Especially for the Moderates as the weaker partner, who, unlike the Social Democrats, have never been considered a natural Swedish governing party.”

Avvenire (IT) /

Fear of the unknown

The Sweden Democrats stoked false fears, Avvenire comments:

“As with Brexit, Trump's victory and the advance of the Rassemblement National in France, Åkesson's propaganda has taken hold not so much in the big multi-ethnic cities, but in the provinces, the small towns and villages. In a context of growing insecurity, with galloping inflation, skyrocketing electricity bills and war in our backyard, it is not the real immigration on our doorstep that is frightening, but the imaginary immigration that is magnified and presented as a threat to everyone's prosperity and the generous Scandinavian welfare state.”

Frankfurter Allgemeine Zeitung (DE) /

Problems allowed to slide for too long

For the Frankfurter Allgemeine Zeitung the election result is a reminder that voters in Europe are still very concerned about migration:

“The violent gang crime that was the focus of the election campaign demonstrates the limits of its ability to integrate newcomers even to a society as cosmopolitan as Sweden's. As in other European countries, voters are showing their dissatisfaction by giving their support to a right-wing populist party. This is highly unpleasant, but ultimately a consequence of failures on the part of the established parties. They have let the problems slide for too long.”

Der Standard (AT) /

Effective policies instead of cheap slogans

The governing Social Democrats have failed to provide answers to the major election issues, Der Standard says:

“It's clear that two issues won the election: crime and migration. ... Apart from populist slogans like 'Next stop Kabul' (Sweden Democrats), 'We don't want Somalitown' (Social Democrats) and 'Compulsory ADHD tests in immigrant areas' (Conservatives) there were hardly any sustainable solutions in the election campaign. ... Yet these are the issues on the experts' lists: better education and job opportunities in suburbs with a high proportion of migrants, better and lower-threshold police services in the communities, and a higher clearance rate for shooting crimes. ... These concepts must be on the table by the time the government takes office at the latest.”

Expressen (SE) /

Overcome polarisation and heal the country

The leader of the Sweden Democrats benefited from an emotionally driven and unobjective election campaign, Expressen criticises:

“Team Magdalena Andersson went to the polls with fear-mongering and a huge sack of money - but no real policies. Jimmie Åkesson was the big winner of the destructive tactics. ... Regardless of the final election results, Sweden will have to pay a high price for this dirty election campaign. Polarisation has increased and political content has taken a back seat. The next prime minister must do all he can to heal the country.”

Kleine Zeitung (AT) /

Populists always win with the same tactics

The Kleine Zeitung detects a pattern familiar from other countries:

“Neither the pandemic nor Nato accession were the central issues in the election campaign. ... It focused on the high energy prices and gang crime, which the right linked to immigration. ... The polarisation and the division into two opposing groups is similar to the numerous other black and white choices put forward in other countries. The populists always manage to generate success from a handful of issues, but in the process the answers to many other - often more pressing - questions remain open.”

Dagens Nyheter (SE) /

State interests must now take precedence

The traditional parties now have the responsibility to jointly tackle the country's current challenges, Dagens Nyheter stresses in a personal appeal to the previous social democratic head of government and the leader of the Moderate Party:

“A special responsibility now rests on the shoulders of Magdalena Andersson and Ulf Kristersson - regardless of the final distribution of mandates. As the leaders of the parties that support the state, you must shoulder the task at hand. You must assume the responsibility to protect not only the interests of your own parties, but also those of the country! Make sure that what needs to be done is done.”