• Sweden's news in English
Just how 'far right' are the Sweden Democrats?
The Sweden Democrats logo. Photo: Janerik Henriksson/TT

Just how 'far right' are the Sweden Democrats?

Lee Roden · 10 Oct 2016, 17:28

Published: 10 Oct 2016 17:28 GMT+02:00

Facebook Twitter Google+ reddit

Löfven’s label for SD isn’t the only one that is a bone of contention: there is also the matter of whether labelling them a "far right" party is fair or not. So just where exactly do SD lie on the political spectrum? The Local asked experts for their opinions on the matter.

“It’s not controversial to point out that when SD was formed in the late 1980s it was by people who could reasonably be classified as Nazis,” Nicholas Aylott, a senior lecturer in political science at Södertörn University in Stockholm, told The Local.

“What was true then needn’t necessarily be true now, but on the other hand, 25 years isn’t a long time in politics. So the roots of a reasonably young party are probably not entirely irrelevant to understanding its character today.”

One person who would agree with that assessment is Swedish PM Löfven, who corrected his initial statement after the TV debate by expanding that he meant SD had “Nazi roots”, adding that the party “came from the white power movement”.

Indeed, SD’s roots have played a significant part in colouring how they are labeled today, according to Ian Manners, a politics professor at the University of Copenhagen who specializes in European politics.

“Löfven was right in that SD clearly have their roots in Nazi and neo-Nazi movements in the 1980s, which has been sustained through the 1990s and 2000s,” he told The Local.

Does that mean that today’s SD could be considered “far right"? Uppsala University political scientist Li Bennich-Björkman doesn’t think so.

“SD are not ‘far right’ by any standard. In placing them on a left-right scale they are actually centrist. In terms of welfare policies, for example. They could also be characterized as holding social conservative values,” she told The Local.

“Nationalism-cosmopolitanism is a separate scale from the left-right one,” she clarified. “There, the party is far to the pole of nationalism (whereas you would find the Greens and Feminist Initiative at the other end).”

Södertörn University’s Aylott agreed that finding an appropriate left-right political label for the contemporary SD is not a straightforward matter.

“They say themselves that they are a nationalist party and describe themselves as social conservatives with a nationalist attitude,” he said.

“That would put them unequivocally on the right in one sense but then their economic policies are probably in most respects to the left of those of the (centre-right) Alliance. So deciding what label to give them is not unproblematic at all.”

One way of trying to assess how appropriate any of the labels for SD are is to use a comparative approach, looking at the party from a broader perspective than just within Sweden.

That’s a method University of Copenhagen professor Manners thinks is a fair one, but again, it’s not simple.

“One way to try and unpack this is that in the USA and the UK, the term ‘far right’ is regularly used to describe them. The Independent, Guardian, New York Times and Washington Post would all use that term,” he said.

“Another is to compare their stance with that of other right of centre parties across Europe. Broadly speaking they would still remain far right in one sense because they haven’t made an attempt to enter government yet, and that moment of entering government does have a moderating effect. So from a comparative perspective, they’re still far right.”

A third option is to compare SD to other parties in Europe by looking at European Parliament groups.

“There’s a right of centre party grouping in the European Parliament which doesn’t advocate leaving the EU, and to the right of them is the European Freedom and Direct Democracy group where the Sweden Democrats sit,” Manners explained.

“That’s definitely far right, in that they are anti-EU, but also anti-immigrant. They’re not however extreme right, as there’s a group further to the right of them still.”

Uppsala University’s Bennich-Björkman argued however that the term “far right” is too often used without analytical purpose.

Story continues below…

“Far-right is a strange label, often used not as an analytical but as a normative and negative way of characterizing many of the parties in Europe that are immigrant-unfriendly and often un-civic in rhetoric,” she said.

“Aggressive nationalists would be a more adequate way of labeling many of them.”

Södertorn University’s Aylott was not of the same opinion.

“I do tend to still describe them as far right. For me, ‘radical right’, another term used, sounds a bit too much like neo-liberal. That’s just the connotation that has grown up – it’s the way people use it. Whereas far right does tend to be more associated with authoritarian nationalist right.”

Deciding which labels are appropriate to attach to SD and which ones are not depends on a number of factors therefore. Are we analyzing their past, as Löfven said he was? Are we analyzing their policies on a left-right scale? Or, are we analyzing them in the context of their party grouping within Europe?

All will shape whether the conclusion is that they are "far right", or something else. 

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

Facebook Twitter Google+ reddit

Today's headlines
Prime Minister to meet Swedish troops in Iraq
Swedish Prime Minister Stefan Löfven and his Kurdish counterpart Nechervan Barzani. Photo: Henrik Montgomery/TT

Sweden's Prime Minister Löfven is set to meet Swedish troops in Iraq on Tuesday.

Swedish politicians wage war on winter time
Soon it will look like this on your way home from work in Sweden. Photo: Anders Wiklund/TT

Should Sweden stick with summer time all year round?

'Don't turn the Pope into a global teddy bear'
Sweden's Queen Silvia and Princess Leonore visiting Pope Francis in the Vatican last year. Photo: Henrik Montgomery/TT

It's time to hold the Pope to account and make sure he turns his words about reform into action, argues a minister of the Swedish Church ahead of Pope Francis' visit to Sweden.

Löfven: 'Sweden will double its number of troops in Iraq'
Stefan Löfven and Haider al-Abadi during the visit on Monday. Photo: Henrik Montgomery/TT

Swedish Prime Minister Stefan Löfven has promised to double his country's number of troops in Iraq following a meeting with Iraqi counterpart Haider al-Abadi on Monday.

Will Swedes soon be looking for fairtrade porn?
Should Swedes think fairtrade with porn? Photo: Karin Malmhav/SvD/TT

A fairtrade attitude to pornography would be beneficial, Sweden's health minister told The Local.

Presented by Stockholm University
Nordic fashion in focus at Stockholm University
Simon Paulin/imagebank.sweden.se

Nordic fashion took centre stage in the Swedish capital last week as Stockholm University hosted the “first-ever” academic conference looking at luxury and sustainability in the fashion industry.

Referee, coach and parents in Swedish youth football fight
File photo of a referee holding a red card not related to the story. Photo: Stefan Jerrevång/TT

A football dad broke his leg in the brawl in front of 11-year-old kids after a Hammarby youth football game.

Illicit abattoir kept more than 100 bulls' penises
A couple of young bulls not related to the story. Photo: Jonas Ekströmer/TT

Dried cattle genitalia, goats' heads and hundreds of litres of lard were just a few of the many strange finds discovered when police raided a property in Sweden.

This is officially Sweden's most beautiful beard
The most beautiful beard in Sweden. Photo: Memo Göcek

According to a jury of barbers and 'well known bearded profiles', that is.

Presented by Invest Stockholm
One expat's strategy for making friends in Stockholm

You might think it’s hard to make friends in a new city. But if at first you don’t succeed – try something else!

Sponsored Article
Last chance to vote absentee in the US elections
People-watching: October 21st-23rd
Sponsored Article
This is Malmö: Football capital of Sweden
Fury at plans that 'threaten the IB's survival' in Sweden
Analysis & Opinion
Are we just going to let half the country die?
Blog updates

6 October

10 useful hjälpverb (The Swedish Teacher) »

"Hej! I think the so-called “hjalpverb” (auxiliary verbs in English) are a good way to get…" READ »


8 July

Editor’s blog, July 8th (The Local Sweden) »

"Hej readers, It has, as always, been a bizarre, serious and hilarious week in Sweden. You…" READ »

Sponsored Article
Where is the Swedish music industry heading?
Angry elk chases Swede up a lamp post
Sponsored Article
Why you should 'grab a chair' on Stockholm's tech scene
The Local Voices
'Alienation in Sweden feels better: I find myself a stranger among scores of aliens'
People-watching: October 20th
The Local Voices
A layover at Qatar airport brought this Swedish-Kenyan couple together - now they're heading for marriage
Sponsored Article
Stockholm: creating solutions to global challenges
Swede punches clown that scared his grandmother
Sponsored Article
Swedish for programmers: 'It changed my life'
Fans throw flares and enter pitch in Swedish football riot
Could Swedish blood test solve 'Making a Murderer'?
Sponsored Article
Top 7 tips to help you learn Swedish
Property of the week: Linnéstaden, Gothenburg
Sponsored Article
‘Extremism can't be defeated on the battlefield alone’
Swedish school to build gender neutral changing room
People-watching: October 14th-16th
Sponsored Article
Stockholm: creating solutions to global challenges
Man in Sweden assaulted by clowns with broken bottle
Sponsored Article
Why you should 'grab a chair' on Stockholm's tech scene
Nobel Prize 2016: Literature
Sponsored Article
Where is the Swedish music industry heading?
Watch the man who discovered Bob Dylan react to his Nobel Prize win
Sponsored Article
One expat's strategy for making friends in Stockholm
Record numbers emigrating from Sweden
Sponsored Article
Nordic fashion in focus at Stockholm University
People-watching: October 12th
The Local Voices
'Swedish startups should embrace newcomers' talents - there's nothing to fear'
How far right are the Sweden Democrats?
Property of the week: Triangeln, Malmö
Sweden unveils Europe's first elk hut
People-watching: October 7th-9th
The Local Voices
Syria's White Helmets: The Nobel Peace Prize would have meant a lot, but pulling a child from rubble is the greatest reward
Missing rune stone turns up in Sweden
Nobel Prize 2016: Chemistry
jobs available