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Four years ago I had just moved to Sweden for my academic placement, having been there less than a month I found myself indulging in my politico side. Swedes had gone to the polls. With near no knowledge of the language I sat watching the election night show trying to decipher what was happening. I knew the names of the parties and a couple of the leaders, and luckily for me percentages are bilingual.
Back in 2010 sitting conservative Prime Minister Fredrik Reinfeldt and his Nya Moderaterna (M) Party remained the party with the most votes and with his coalition partners of Centre Partiet (C), the liberals Folkpartiet (FP) and Kristdemokraterna (KD) the Alliance would be in government for another four years. Leaving the Labour ‘Socialdemokratiska’ (S) Green Miljöpartiet (MP) and far left Vänsterpartiet (V) in opposition.
The surprise result in 2010 was the entrance of the far right Sweden Democrats Sverigedemokraterna (SD) in to the Riksdag (Swedish Parliament) having gained 5.7% of the vote coming 6/8. 4% is required in order to gain Riksdag seats. This shocked the wider Swedish public as the Sweden Democrats are anti-immigrant, anti-Europe with a reputation of being a racist party. This result was met with protests, of which several marched past my apartment window.
In May’s European Elections earlier this year the Sweden Democrats showed no sign of disappearing and gained their first MEP with the Goverening New Moderates coming third behind the Social Democrats and the Greens start the general election race off with a rough start for Reinfeldt.
So on Sunday, once again I found myself watching Sweden’s Election night, this time with a small understanding of Swedish but with a greater understanding of what was going on prior to the build-up. The Polls showed consistently that the Social Democrats would win the popular vote with the expected revival of the Red-Green Alliance lead by Stefan Löfven which includes the greens and the left. However polls showed a worrying sign that the Sweden Democrats were making gains and could hold the balance of power. After the last election both blocs, the Red-Green and the Alliance refused to negotiate with the Sweden Democrats. This led to the minority Alliance government.
Four years on, the first predictions showed a horrifying figure. The Sweden Democrats were predicted a huge 10.4% of the vote. To put this into perspective. The Social Democrats, the country’s largest party was predicted 29.6. The Moderates 20.6% and the third party, the Greens 8.7%. As the night went on the numbers didn’t improve. By 10.30, the Sweden Democrats were at 12.0% and the Greens 6.8%. The party’s Leader Jimmie Åkesson came on stage and celebrated becoming Sweden’s third biggest party.
It should be pointed out that the Sweden Democrats state they have a zero tolerance policy towards extremists and racism; however as with many nationalist parties there are those that slip through. In 2013 Sverige Radio had labeled Sweden Democrats xenophobic, this was taken to the broadcasting regulators who said the description was acceptable to use. Previously they have received support and funding from France’s Front National which also has far right leanings.
The Sweden Democrats are the only party to not have an integration policy for immigrants as they feel this is ‘meeting in the middle’ and they don’t feel the Swedish people should bear the burden of ‘Reckless immigration policies’. They feel immigration threatens Sweden’s national identity and describe immigrants as ‘Rootless’. They reject multiculturalism and want to reinstate a Swedish national identity. With regards to the indigenous Sami people of northern Sweden the Sweden Democrats are critical of their special rights given to them and want to abolish their constitutional status as ‘indigenous’ and even deport members of other ethnic groups. They feel the Sami people’s rights over reindeer are undemocratic. Similar to UKIP and some Tories, they are anti-Euro, anti-expansion of the EU and want to renegotiate EU membership.
With regards to family policy they favor a ‘Nuclear family’ and believe a child should have one father and one mother, they are opposed to homosexual couples adopting and to lesbians being inseminated. Though they criticize the gay lobby they claim not to be hostile towards homosexuals. In a stance against the ‘islamisation’ of Sweden, Åkesson argued eventually this would lead to the violation of sexual minorities.
The other story of the night was the bad news for the Feminist party Feministiskt initiative (FI) Having gained one seat in the European Elections they were looking to take their first seat in the Riksdag. Lead by Gudrun Schyman, former leader of the Left party where she doubled the number of their seats. She had hoped and many pundits had predicted the Feminist Party would break the 4% ceiling to get in to the Riksdag. Schyman is famous for burning 100,000kr (£10,000) in protest against the gender pay gap. The result of 3.1% will hurt as they had hoped to enter parliament and shake off the current position of pressure group.
The final result shows that the Sweden Democrats are becoming too big to ignore. Last elections results were bad enough causing a minority government, this time round that minority is being squeezed even more but with a different bloc in charge. Reinfeldt resigned as Prime Minister and unexpectedly as leader of the New Moderates. Sweden will wake up with Stefan Löfven charged with starting negotiations to form the next government of Sweden. If you want to learn how coalition governments should be formed with more than three parties in the process look to Sweden over the next few weeks.
How did first time voters vote?
Voting broken down by gender