• Sweden's news in English
 
app_header_v3

How the Sweden Democrats went mainstream

Maddy Savage · 15 Sep 2014, 10:11

Published: 15 Sep 2014 10:11 GMT+02:00

Crammed into a former boat house a hundred metres from Stockholm's Abba museum and the city's Gröna Lund theme park, more than a hundred Sweden Democrats screamed and jumped for joy on Sunday night as exit polls suggested they were on course to secure 13 percent of the vote.
 
Many were in their twenties, dressed in shiny new suits and ties or tight dresses as they drank wine, ate from a buffet of cold meats and waved blue and yellow flags each time their party's results popped up on the projector screen above the main stage.
 
 

Young people like Joakim Isheden have flocked to the Sweden Democrats. Photo: Maddy Savage
 
This was the Sweden Democrats' main post-election gathering and unlike in Sweden's third city Malmö, where journalists have uncovered a number of scandals about party candidates in recent weeks, reporters from across Europe were invited to observe the celebrations. 
 
Our 'press centre' was a dark room directly beneath the main action, with wire bars on the windows and no access to Wi-Fi. But upstairs, as the wine flowed, Sweden Democrat supporters were more than willing to share their views on how the party had managed to double its vote.
 
"We have a reputation for accepting more immigrants than anywhere else in Europe," said Joakim Isheden, who is on the board of directors for the Sweden Democrat party's youth wing.
 
"We just can't keep going in the same direction," he added.
 
Another teenager was more brash in his assessment as he queued up at the bar.
 
"I know everyone thinks we are racists and yes, it is true, we don't want the immigrants here, but we really are the solution to this country's problems," he said.
 
 
So how has a far-right anti-immigration party managed to capture the hearts of around one in eight Swedes in a country with a reputation for Nordic tolerance?
 
Sweden currently has one of the world's most generous refugee policies. Around 2,000 people seek asylum here every week and the country grants automatic residency to all refugees fleeing the Syria conflict. 
 

Large numbers of refugees and asylum seekers move to Sweden every week. Photo: TT
 
The Sweden Democrats want a radical overhaul of these laws, arguing money should instead be spent on social welfare and humanitarian aid to cap the numbers arriving in the first place.
 
None of the other main parties in Sweden have spoken out in favour of cutting immigration, although former Prime Minister Fredrik Reinfeldt did bring up the ongoing costs to the country.
 
It is a very different political climate to other European countries such as France, Italy or the UK where centre-right parties openly discuss quotas and integration strategies.
 
 
Jimmie Åkesson's press spokesman Linus Bylund argues that the party's unique approach to immigration is the key reason for its rapid success since 2010, when it gained its first 20 seats in the Swedish parliament.
 
"It is obvious that we represent a political line in the sand that is different from all the other parties," he told The Local on Monday.
 
"We believe that mass immigration and multiculturalism get in the way of our country's development and welfare systems. We cannot afford this."
 

Jimmie Åkesson was relaxed in front of the cameras on election night. Photo: TT
 
Political Scientist Li Bennich Björkman from Uppsala university says the party's charismatic leader Jimmie Åkesson, 35, has benefited from a slick and organized media campaign and "better organization" within the party in recent years.
 
He has been particularly successful at attracting votes from young people during a period when unemployment among those aged 15 to 24 has bounced between 20 and 25 percent - about three times higher than overall joblessness in Sweden.
 
But Björkman says the party has also tapped into a growing frustration bubbling across generations in rural communities in the north and south of the country.
 
"There is a group of people outside of Sweden's urban cities that feel marginalized," she says.
 
"The Sweden Democrats are not just about cutting immigration, they represent this wider resistance to the post-modern world and so they attract people that hark back to a different kind of Sweden."
Story continues below…
 
 
"I don't think anything has really changed in Sweden since the last election, it is just that it has become less stigmatized to vote for the Sweden Democrats," she told The Local.
 
"I don't think all their supporters even want to cut immigration, they just feel they have no other political options to vote for."
 
In the media and political spheres in Sweden there is much chatter about how the rise of the Sweden Democrats could change global perceptions of the country.
 
Many are also asking if the party's success could steer former Prime Minister Fredrik Reinfeldt's Moderate Party further to the right.
 
"Nearly 30 per cent of the Sweden Democrats' new voters came from the Moderate Party and there has already been speculation that a new leader will be chosen to change the party's direction in the light of this," said SVT television's political analyst Margit Silberstein.
 
In the meantime most commentators agree that while the Sweden Democrats may have secured success at the ballot box, the other parties will work hard to ensure they don't succeed in parliament.
 
"I really do not think any of the parliamentary parties want to cooperate with the Sweden Democrats," said Silberstein.
 
"The other politicians will do all they can to keep them isolated".

For more news from Sweden, join us on Facebook and Twitter.

Maddy Savage (maddy.savage@thelocal.com)

Today's headlines
Zlatan reunited with Mourinho at Manchester United
Ibrahimovic - who left French champions Paris Saint Germain at the end of last season - is reunited with Mourinho, under whom he played at Inter Milan. Photo: TT

Can the Swedish superstar recapture the swagger that eluded him at Euro 2016?

Kidnappers with chainsaw abduct man in Stockholm
The scene of the kidnapping in Stockholm. Photo: Maja Suslin/TT

A man has been arrested after armed kidnappers bundled another man into a van and drove off with him shortly after noon on Friday outside the Bromma Blocks shopping centre in Stockholm.

Border Checks
Commuters to seek damages from Sweden over ID checks
The Öresund bridge. Photo: Erland Vinberg/TT

The Southern Sweden Chamber of Commerce is collecting commuters' names ahead of an attempt to claim damages from the Swedish state over ID checks in the Öresund region.

Why Swedes are so relaxed about taking gap years
Anna Tybrandt and her friends in Malaysia/Photo: Private

But the French aren't so keen.

Euro 2016
How Iceland made Swedes 'proud to be Nordic'
Fans react in Reykjavic after Iceland defeat England. Photo: Brynjar Gunnarsson

Sweden failed to make it past the group stages at Euro 2016. The fans needed a new team, and now they've got one.

Why this Swedish police dog has been hailed as a hero
Äddie the police dog has finally retired after ten years on the job. Photo: Christer Torlen

A heart-warming Stockholm Police tribute to Äddie the retiring police dog has attracted hundreds of replies and thousands of likes on Facebook.

Five facts on Manchester United-bound Ibrahimovic
Ibrahimovic is on his way to Old Trafford. Here's everything you need to know. Photo: Anders Wiklund/TT

Zlatan Ibrahimovic has finally confirmed his next choice of club. Here are five facts on the Swedish striker after he announced he is signing for Manchester United on Thursday.

Swedish state appeals against Roma register ruling
Fred Taikon was one of the eleven victims. Photo: Maja Suslin

A court ruling judged that the Swedish state should pay out compensation to eleven victims of ethnic discrimination, but an appeal has now been launched.

Ikea opens massive museum in Sweden
A scene from the museum in Älmhult. Photo: Emil Langvad/TT

Flatpack enthusiasts rejoice: Ikea has just opened a 7,000 square metre museum in the building that once housed its original store.

The Local Recipes
How to make a Swedish chicken and strawberry salad
Chicken and strawberry: a better combination than it may seem. Photo: SwedishFood.com

Easy to prepare, this chicken and strawberry salad is the meal you need this weekend, trust us!

Sponsored Article
5 reasons you should try dating with The Inner Circle
National
'A Swedish passport means more than a British one now'
Sponsored Article
Why Swiss hospitality graduates are in demand
The Local Voices
The Syrian body-building champion fighting the urge to eat sweets in Sweden
Business & Money
Swedish banknotes expire this week
Blog updates

1 July

Editor’s blog, July 1st (The Local Sweden) »

"Hello and welcome to this week’s news round-up. The fall-out from the Brexit vote has come…" READ »

 

28 June

A message for British expats in Sweden (The Diplomatic Dispatch) »

"The people of the United Kingdom have voted to leave the European Union. As Prime Minister…" READ »

 
 
 
Gallery
People-watching: June 29th
Sponsored Article
International students in Stockholm partner with Nepal school
International
Foul-mouthed attack on young Swedish mother in England
Private
The Local Voices
'Having a Middle Eastern name makes life in Sweden hard'
National
Is this Swede the new Vincent van Gogh?
Sponsored Article
Why you should attend an international job fair
Politics
Citizenship applications up 500% for Brits in Sweden
Sponsored Article
Avoid hidden fees when sending money overseas
National
The humble Swede who sent England home from Euro 2016
Gallery
Property of the week: Torhamn
Sponsored Article
Education abroad: How to find an international school
Private
The Local Voices
'Sweden is the best place for people with special needs'
Sponsored Article
The man behind Sweden's biggest music festival
International
'A morning of sorrow': Sweden reacts to Brexit vote
International
Sweden opposition cools talk of 'Swexit' poll
Sponsored Article
US expats: Have you met your tax deadlines?
International
'Devastated' - Brits in Sweden shocked by Brexit vote
Sponsored Article
Malmö: Home to the best food in Sweden?
Gallery
People-watching: June 22nd
Sponsored Article
VIDEO: Why Malmö is the world's 6th best city for biking
Private
The Local Voices
'Swedes don't treat me differently because I wear a hijab'
Sponsored Article
5 reasons you should try dating with The Inner Circle
Culture
How do Swedes celebrate Midsummer?
Culture
Coming soon: Sweden’s smelly fermented fish
Sponsored Article
6 simple travel hacks that will make your life easier
National
Assange lawyer: Sweden should recognize UN opinion
Private
The Local Voices
Why is this Syrian dentist who hugs like a Swede worried about undies?
Swedish nationalist 'shot and ate' lion and giraffe
Analysis & Opinion
'Sweden's residency revamp is harmful and inhumane'
Photo: The Local
The Local Voices
UNHCR boss: 'It's hard to start your life without your family'
3,248
jobs available
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:
psdmedia.se