Sweden's general election on September 9 looks set to become the most interesting the country has had in years. Concerns over mass immigration and rampant crime are redefining the political landscape.
For the first time in more than a hundred years, the Social Democrats may be dethroned as the country's largest political party. By Swedish standards, this constitutes a political earthquake.
The Social Democrats in Sweden are not just any political party. They have shaped Swedish political and cultural life for generations. At the peak of their power, they dominated Swedish society to such an extent that the country almost resembled a one-party state. They have been the largest party in all national elections for more than a century. From the 1930s until the early 1990s, they received more than 40% of the vote. Several times during this period, they got more than 50% of the votes and held an overall majority of the seats in the Swedish Parliament (Riksdag). They received 45.2 % of the votes as late as in 1994, and 39.9 % in 2002.
In most opinion polls from mid-2018, the Social Democrats received between 22% and 28% support. If they get 24% of the votes in the 2018 general elections, this will still make them a major party – but it would also be the worst election result the Swedish Social Democratic Party has had since 1912.
The main challenger is the nationally-oriented party known as the Sweden Democrats (SD). The SD entered the Swedish Parliament for the first time in 2010. In 2014, they received 12.9% of votes and became the third largest party, after the Social Democrats and the Moderate Party.
The Moderates have promoted mass immigration just as much as the Social Democrats have when they held power. Disaffection with immigration has thus affected the two largest establishment parties.
Jimmie Åkesson, who has served as the leader of the SD since 2005, stated in an interview from July 2018 that he is certain the Sweden Democrats will become the largest political party in Sweden. Perhaps in 2018; if not, later. The Sweden Democrats have clearly become a force to be reckoned with.
His optimism is not without merit. Several polls have shown the SD to surpass the Moderates to become the second largest party. A couple of opinion polls from 2018 have even suggested that the SD could surpass the Social Democrats and becomethe largest party in Sweden with up to 28.5 % support.
Stefan Löfven, who led the Social Democratic Party since 2012, has been Prime Minister of Sweden since 2014, heading a minority coalition government consisting of the Social Democrats and the Green Party. Löfven is widely perceived as not being a particularly strong leader. It caused concern among the Social Democrats when Löfven was openly laughed at by the audience during a TV debate with other party leaders in May 2018.
Sweden's Prime Minister Stefan Löfven is widely perceived as not being a particularly strong leader. It caused concern among the Social Democrats when Löfven was openly laughed at by the audience during a TV debate in May 2018. Pictured: Löfven at a European Union summit on December 14, 2017. (Photo by Dan Kitwood/Getty Images)
The election could leave an unpredictable political situation in Sweden. One possibility is that the Social Democrats and the Moderates, the two traditionally largest parties, could team up and form a coalition government together.
This would be comparable to how the Social Democrats (SPD) and the Christian Democratic Union (CDU) have been in power together in Germany since 2013. The major establishment parties largely agree on major issues concerning the EU, mass immigration, Islam and Multiculturalism. It may make sense for them to team up together to prevent dissenting voices from gaining power.
The decline of the Social Democrats in Sweden mirrors the decline of their sister parties in other European countries, such as Germany and the Netherlands. This wider trend cannot be attributed to one person alone, and has also opened up room for movements to the right of the SD.
This year, a new party called Alternative for Sweden (Alternativ för Sverige, AfS) entered the election campaign. Its name is clearly inspired by the Alternative for Germany (Alternative für Deutschland, AfD), which, during the elections in 2017, became the third-largest party in Germany.
Several former members of the Sweden Democrats, such as the writer Jan Milld, have defected to the AfS, as have several former SD Members of Parliament. Even the party leader of Alternative for Sweden, Gustav Kasselstrand, has a background in the Sweden Democrats.
During an interview with Voice of Europe last month, Kasselstrand stated:
"What you read about Sweden on alternative news platforms is true. We are facing problems more severe than ever before in our history, where Swedes face a situation of being a minority within 20 years if nothing is done to stop the replacement of our people. I would describe the problems in Sweden as a kind of low-intensity civil war (with gradually increasing intensity each day). What makes the situation even more difficult is, of course, the extreme political correctness that has haunted Sweden for decades, but which is now finally breaking up."
Kasselstrand and the Alternative for Sweden argue that the policies of the Sweden Democrats are no longer sufficient to deal with Sweden's problems with violent crime and public gang shootings. The AfS want to end immigration completely and to start repatriating hundreds of thousands of illegal immigrants, criminal aliens and immigrants who burden Swedish society in one way or another.
Meanwhile, some established parties such as the Green Party feel that Swedish immigration policies are too restrictive. They want even more immigration than today. However, this view no longer seems to be popular with the voters. The Green Party is currently struggling to maintain their seats in Parliament.
Mass immigration has created an atmosphere of extreme polarization in Swedish society. These tensions will not go away regardless of the election results in September. Political change finally seems to be coming to Sweden.