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Sweden Democrats rake in southern support

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Sweden Democrats rake in southern support
13:17 CEST+02:00
The immigration-critical Sweden Democrats would nab 16 percent of the vote in regional elections in the south if residents were to cast their ballots today, revealed a new poll by Yougov commissioned by the Metro newspaper.

"In Malmö, our membership numbers are up by 30 percent in the past six months," Sweden Democrat Malmö municipal district chairman Jörgen Grubb told The Local. "We see a general increase so it doesn't surprise me that support has gone up regionally."

Neither did the new poll result surprise observers who are traditionally critical of the Sweden Democrats.

"Skåne has traditionally been their strongest stronghold, so it's not surprising their support there is above the national average," Alexander Bengtsson, deputy CEO of the magazine Expo, which covers nationalism and racism, told The Local.

Some commentators reacted to the news on Monday by saying the Sweden Democrats may be gaining ground in Skåne due to the widespread discontent in the region at how the healthcare system was being run.

"Part of it is probably due to how much coverage the healthcare crisis in Skåne is getting," political scientist Anders Sannerstedt at Lund University told Metro.

Alexander Bengtsson at Expo disagreed.

"I don't think Skåne residents fed up with healthcare have jumped ship to the Sweden Democrats, nor have they as a party regionally made an effort to cash in by, for example, making the nurses' cause their own," he said.

"It's not a strategy they have."

"What we can see is that the people responsible for cuts to the healthcare budgets have gone back in this poll," said opposition Social Democrat Elin Bruzewitz, who sits as a replacement in the regional assembly healthcare committee.

"But personally I don't think voters see the Sweden Democrats as the main oppositional force in healthcare questions, that's usually the Social Democrats' role," she said, adding that her party had gone from 29 percent of voter support to 34 in the past year based on opinions polls from March.

She added that the Sweden Democrat surge was "obviously worrying".

The Yougov poll asked 1,009 Skåne residents where their allegiances lay but also their views in different policy areas. Two thirds of survey respondents said they had very low or low confidence in the politicians currently in charge of healthcare policy, which across Sweden is administered at regional level.

Lars-Johan Hallgren, who heads the 14-strong group of Sweden Democrats in the 149-seat regional assembly, also said he believed Swedish voters were abandoning Sweden's traditional bloc politics.

"People see us as a third alternative, so where before the socialists and the conservatives vied for power, also regionally, more and more people think there is another option," Hallgren told The Local.

The southern Skåne region is currently under the regime of the Green Party working in conjunction with the centre-right Alliance, which also rules Sweden at national level. The collaboration, dubbed the Femklöver (the five-leaf clover), would not get a majority if elections were held today, instead attracting about 44 percent of regional votes.

The new survey also revealed that both the Centre Party and the Christian Democrats would sink below three percent. It stands to note that the two government coalition parties are also taking a battering on the national stage, with doubts cast if they can muster enough support to keep ahold of power in upcoming 2014 polls.

On Monday night, Sweden Democrat leader Jimmie Åkesson will meet Integration Minister Erik Ullenhag in a debate about asylum and integration, hosted at Lund University. Tickets to the event have sold out.

At Expo, Alexander Bengtsson thought meeting Åkesson in a debate was the right thing for the integration minister to do.

"I mean, do you legitimize Åkesson by debating with him? He is an elected leader of a party in parliament," he told The Local. "But he was supposed to debate against us, at first, but he's too scared to."

Ann Törnkvist

Follow Ann on Twitter here

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