• Sweden edition
 
Sweden wakes up to a new reality

Sweden wakes up to a new reality

Published: 23 Sep 2010 10:21 GMT+02:00
Updated: 23 Sep 2010 10:21 GMT+02:00

The election of the Sweden Democrats was hardly a surprise - indeed, the election result was roughly in line with predictions. Yet the lack of a government with majority support in parliament has sent the political establishment into a spin, and threatens to overshadow the success of the centre-right parties, who may be forced to seek an uncomfortable accommodation with a reluctant Green Party.

Where the Sweden Democrats succeeded was in tapping into an undercurrent of resentment among some Swedes at large-scale immigration - some 14 percent of Sweden's population is composed of people with foreign backgrounds.

The party, with its young leader Jimmie Åkesson, ran a professional campaign and toned down some of its more extreme rhetoric about throwing immigrants out of the country. It also capitalized on the fact that it was shunned by the political and media establishment, using its underdog status to its advantage.

Only time will tell whether the Sweden Democrats prove to be a lasting force in Swedish politics (a previous populist party, Ny Demokrati, made similar gains in the 1991 election, only to disappear without trace three years later), but the eclipse of the Social Democrats might have longer-lasting consequences.

The party, which has ruled Sweden for 65 of the past 78 years and built up the Swedish model of a highly taxed state with generous welfare benefits, has seen its share of the vote fall to just 30.8 percent. The result is the worst for the party since 1914, and puts it at level pegging with the Moderates for the first time. Moreover, this was the second election the party had lost in a row. For the first time since the 1970s, the centre-right would rule for two terms.

The Social Democrats are the victims of Reinfeldt's shrewd realignment of the Moderates. Reinfeldt persuaded his party that Swedes were willing to move to the right, but not too fast or too far. In this, he made a similar calculation to Tony Blair and Bill Clinton - he identified the centre ground and appropriated his opposition's language in order to conquer it. He formed the Alliance for Sweden with centrist parties, and vowed to rule in genuine partnership.

For the New Moderates, tax cuts needed to target ordinary wage earners and reducing unemployment became top priority. Reinfeldt dubbed his party the ‘New workers' party', appropriating the name from the Social Democratic Workers' Party. The message to voters was that he wanted to overthrow the Social Democratic Party, but not the whole Social Democratic system.

Yet subtle though the changes were, Sweden has not simply replaced Social Democracy with ‘Social Democracy lite'. From having the highest taxes in the world, Sweden is heading rapidly towards the European average. From having the highest level of sick leave in Europe, the current government's tough approach has brought it down to more normal levels. The state pharmacy monopoly has been consigned to history and the governments holdings in many other companies have been sold off.

Conservative hard-liners might think Reinfeldt has not gone far enough - the top rate of income tax remains 58 percent, for instance - but Sweden has taken a clear rightward turn.

As members of Reinfeldt's Moderate Party gathered at a glitzy hotel in Stockholm for their election night party, they only had to look out of the window to the grandiose headquarters of the Social Democratic-linked union organization LO to remind themselves of the journey they had made. This iconic bastion of Social Democracy is now dwarfed by the steel and glass edifice in which smart-suited Moderates feted their historic victory.

The Sweden Democrats would provide a mammoth hangover on Monday, but that would not alter the fact that the Moderates have changed the course of Swedish politics - and the party knows it.

This article has previously been published in full on the Swedish debate website Newsmill.

James Savage (james.savage@thelocal.se)

Your comments about this article

21:43 September 23, 2010 by miss79
yep the swedes sure had waken up and now is a nightmare..congrats swedes..
22:37 September 23, 2010 by fredbloch
Quite shocking violence against politicians. First the attack on the far right politician (Sweden Democrat - Antoni) by liberals of all people, who apparently cut a swastika into his forhead; and now the beating of centre party politician. What is going on in Sweden?
08:35 September 24, 2010 by miss79
well fredloch, sweden USED to be a nice country under social democrates, but i guess swedish people choose this way, to reckon sweden..from a wonderful country to a violance enviroment
08:57 September 24, 2010 by skatty
Not yet, Sweden waked up but it takes much longer time to reach to the reality!
12:34 September 24, 2010 by bwana
Wahayy! .. I never thought that the alliance would win again !

Perhaps the taxes will drop down to a more humane level so that me and other tax-exiles can afford to return to Sweden.

I'll definitely look into it..
13:12 September 24, 2010 by here for the summer
@miss you say congrats Swedes sarcastically.. are you not a swede if not before now ?

Also the question of violence if it is in fact more violent ? If so what brought about the changes was it now the moderates or was it the fact that many more violent people have now moved to Sweden ? I think the later .
01:25 September 25, 2010 by Lil'Ayesha
Many Swedish politicians and journalists are under the impression that the Swedish social welfare system is admired and even envied. In Malawi and Iraq it probably is, but not in Europe. We are not surprised that many Swedes think that taxation on their hard work should not be used to fund Islamic ghettoes alien to everything Swedish where work-shy immigrant idle the time away enforcing Islamic customs on women in the area.
12:20 September 25, 2010 by Streja
The unemployment hasn't gone down. Does that mean that the Alliance policies don't work in times of recession and crisis?
16:11 September 25, 2010 by Pharazon
"The party, with its young leader Jimmie Åkesson, ran a professional campaign and toned down some of its more extreme rhetoric about throwing immigrants out of the country."

The Sweden Democrats have NEVER said that they want to throw out immigrants. This is yet another lie created by the media and the other parties so that they can label them as racist.

Sweden as any other nation can ad deportation as a penalty for foreign citizens when they have committed a crime. But as it is right now even if a criminal gets sentenced to deportation it is rarely carried out. The Sweden Democrats simply want to make deportation a standard penalty for all major crimes committed by foreign citizens. And to have them carried out.
21:15 September 25, 2010 by miss79
@hereforsummer yes i do say it sarcastically, after all u guys want to change right?but changing in the wrong time..

things will get worst my friend..moderates does making things worst..just wat streja wrote, unemployment hasnt gone down..if u dont want violent people to come to sweden, why not protest to EU goverment to stop the war in afghanistan, iraq for the oil or should i say dirty business-is all related
19:07 September 27, 2010 by darrenj
Swedes are out "ficka ring" its the dark cold autumn months. Time to wrap up in your lonliness and depression,. take happy pills, play WOW and drinlk!!

Soon evey one will forget about the plight opf the immigrants, Which are actually NOT taking away Swedish jobs. Stats still show that more Swedes have jobs and having a Swedish profile gets you a job faster!!

The middle point of normality will soon move again, people will be become more use to right wing extremism and think it normal to openly discriminate.

Darren Maharaj
Today's headlines
Ebola crisis
Sweden pledges new aid to UN Ebola fund
Photo: TT

Sweden pledges new aid to UN Ebola fund

Sweden has offered a new sizeable contribution to the fund set up by UN chief Ban K-moon to fight the Ebola outbreak. READ  

Society
'Dark forces' target refugee hunting scheme
Photo: Lars-Göran Thuresson/Älgriket

'Dark forces' target refugee hunting scheme

The Swedish hunting association runs a project to encourage young asylum-seekers to learn about hunting, a move which has proved controversial among some far right groups. READ  

Business & Money
American sales squeeze Ericsson profits
Ericsson CEO Hans Vestberg presents the third-quarter earnings report at the company's headquarters in Kista. Photo: Janerik Henriksson/TT

American sales squeeze Ericsson profits

Swedish telecoms equipment maker Ericsson reported a decline in net profit in the third quarter despite an increase in sales, boosted by business in emerging markets. READ  

Interview
'Too many concerts feel the same'
Sofar hosts secret gigs in Swedish apartments. Photo: Sofar

'Too many concerts feel the same'

Kattis Bjork founded Stockholm's secret gig scene - Sofar - a year ago. The Local caught up with her as she prepared to celebrate the project's anniversary this weekend and revealed the concept will spread to other Swedish cities in 2015. READ  

Stockholm 'sub hunt'
Sweden calls off suspect submarine search
Ships are returning to shore in Sweden. Photo: TT

Sweden calls off suspect submarine search

The core search for a suspected foreign vessel in Swedish waters has been called off. The armed forces said they remained convinced foreign underwater activity had taken place but had not identified an intruder. READ  

Business & Money
US and Japan fuel surge for Volvo trucks
Ed Carbaugh prepares to install parts on a truck engine on an assembly line at Volvo Trucks' powertrain manufacturing facility in Hagerstown, Maryland, March 2014. Photo: Patrick Semansky/AP

US and Japan fuel surge for Volvo trucks

Sweden's Volvo, the world's second-largest maker of trucks, said Friday it saw a spike in profits in the third quarter, boosted by thriving sales in the US and Japanese markets. READ  

Inspectors attacked at rogue doc’s surgery
Cigarettes and beer photo: Shutterstock

Inspectors attacked at rogue doc’s surgery

Inspectors who were sent to shut down a doctor’s surgery in Gothenburg were physically attacked and fled the premises to get help from the police. READ  

Police turn Swede’s vodka into water
A Swede loads a car with alcohol in northern Germany. File photo: Drago Prvulovic/TT

Police turn Swede’s vodka into water

Swedish police say they will pay a man 16,000 kronor ($2,200) in damages after much of the alcohol they confiscated from him was stolen, while many of the bottles they returned were filled with water. READ  

Diplomacy
US to get first female ambassador in Sweden
File photo: Athena Center for Leadership Studies

US to get first female ambassador in Sweden

The United States Embassy in Stockholm is set to get its first female ambassador after the White House announced it was nominating the Iranian-American ex-investment banker Azita Raji to take over from Mark Brzezinski. READ  

Neo-Nazi attacks
Neo-Nazis cleared of knife attack on Nigerian
Police intervene after neo-Nazis attack an anti-Nazi rally in Kärrtorp, December 2013. Photo: Hampus Andersson/TT

Neo-Nazis cleared of knife attack on Nigerian

A Stockholm court has cleared three neo-Nazis of stabbing a Nigerian man in an unprovoked attack. But two of the men will face jail after they were convicted of racial agitation at a riot. READ  

RECEIVE OUR NEWSLETTER AND ALERTS
Lifestyle
What's On in Sweden: October 24th - 31st
Gallery
People-watching: October 22nd
Gallery
In Pictures: Prince Carl Philip and Sofia Hellqvist
Lifestyle
Eight things to love about renting a Swedish apartment
National
Vasa ship cannon blasted in Sweden
Blog updates

24 October

Editor’s blog, October 24th (The Local Sweden) »

"Hi readers, Get ready to read our weekly digest of Swedish news in less than 60 seconds. The..." READ »

 

24 October

Is darkness weather? (Blogweiser) »

"I try very hard not to talk about the weather. This has come after a decade..." READ »

 
 
 
National
Sub hunt: Day-by-day
National
Sub hunt: Stockholm islanders share their fears with The Local
Sponsored Article
The best options for oversea transfers
National
Get 20% off unique Swedish homeware
National
Dentist gives free care to Roma beggars
Business & Money
Get your own office in Gothenburg or Stockholm - free for a day
Gallery
Property of the week: Malmö
Gallery
PHOTOS: 'Foreign activity' in Swedish waters
Gallery
People-watching: October 19th
TT
Society
QUIZ: How good is your Swedish?
Lifestyle
What's on in Sweden: October 17th - 24th
Society
The nudity... and nine other things expat men notice in Sweden
Gallery
People-watching: October 15th
Gallery
Your views: Should outdoor smoking be banned in Sweden?
Business & Money
Sweden has 'large hole' in finances
Sponsored Article
Introducing... Finding a job in Stockholm
Society
Monster salmon caught in northern Sweden
Gallery
Property of the week: Lorensberg
National
Scandinavia's child bride
National
Ebola crisis: How is Sweden preparing?
Business & Money
How Sweden is becoming a cashless society
Gallery
Stockholm Burlesque Festival 2014
National
How a little red horse became a symbol for Sweden
Gallery
People-watching: October 12th
Business & Money
The hottest start-ups from southern Sweden
National
What's on in Sweden: October 10th - 17th
National
Stockholm is 'best' region for well-being
Gallery
People-watching: October 8th
National
Five facts to know about Patrick Modiano
Society
My Swedish Career: A French fashionista in Sweden
Society
Swede's anti-bully Facebook tale goes viral
Society
Have you seen Sweden's viral subway cancer campaign?
National
Isis: Swedes linked to Turkish prisoner swap
National
Should Swedes be banned from buying sex abroad?
Gallery
Fredrik Reinfeldt's leaving presents
National
Five Swedish TV shows you shouldn't miss
Gallery
A tool belt, a casserole, and a book. Fredrik Reinfeldt's parliament gifts
TT
Lifestyle
Top five winter festivals in Sweden
TT
National
Sami reindeer herders win mine reprieve
Gallery
Property of the Week: Gamla Enskede
Sponsored Article
How to catch the first lobster of the year
Team SCA
Sponsored Article
All-female SCA team takes off on Volvo Ocean Race
Latest news from The Local in Austria

More news from Austria at thelocal.at

Latest news from The Local in Switzerland

More news from Switzerland at thelocal.ch

Latest news from The Local in Germany

More news from Germany at thelocal.de

Latest news from The Local in Denmark

More news from Denmark at thelocal.dk

Latest news from The Local in Spain

More news from Spain at thelocal.es

Latest news from The Local in France

More news from France at thelocal.fr

Latest news from The Local in Italy

More news from Italy at thelocal.it

Latest news from The Local in Norway

More news from Norway at thelocal.no

979
jobs available
Swedish Down Town Consulting & Productions
Swedish Down Town Consulting & Productions is an innovative business company which provides valuable assistance with the Swedish Authorities, Swedish language practice and general communications. Call 073-100 47 81 or visit:
www.swedishdowntown.com
PSD Media
PSD Media is marketing company that offers innovative solutions for online retailers. We provide modern solutions that help increase traffic and raise conversion. Visit our site at:
http://psdmedia.se
If you want to drink, that’s your business.
If you want to stop, we can help.

Learn more about English-language Alcoholics Anonymous in Sweden. No dues. No fees. Confidentiality assured.
AA-EUROPE.ORG/SWEDEN