The election strategy announced on Tuesday – titled “better welfare, law and order, and faster integration” – sees the party move decisively onto traditionally right-wing territory.
“We have a political agenda today which is in some sense is authoritarian,” explained John Zanchi, the party's election chief, at a press conference held to announce the strategy on Tuesday.
“There is a desire among voters for someone to take control over the way society is developing.”
“The election should be about what voters want it to be about,” Zanchi's colleague Lena Rådström Baastad added.
The new strategy is based around five “social problems” which the party has identified, two of which are more often seen as traditional right-wing territory.
“Safety has been reduced and a new type of criminality is attempting to take root,” reads one.
“Even if we have now started what needs to be undertaken,” reads another. “For a long time, the integration problem has been taken too lightly.”
Daniel Suhonen, head of the influential Social Democrat thinktank Katalys, warned that the strategy marked an ill-thought-out return to the triangulation techniques of the 1990s, when parties drew on opinion research to tailor their policies to appeal to swing voters.
“I'm extremely disappointed and worried about it, and I know there are a lot of us who feel that way across the Social Democrats, in the parliament and in the unions,” he told The Local.
He said the focus on wavering voters was a mistake and that the party should instead be trying to mobilize working class voters.
“Unfortunately it's not 1997 with Tony Blair, it's 2018, and it's 'Trump-or-Sanders', 'Corbyn-or-Ukip', and they don't understand that,” he said.
Göran Greider, the long-time editor of the Dala-Demokraten newspaper and another prominent Social Democrat commentator, agreed that the party was neglecting its heartlands.
“My cat has a better election strategy than the Social Democrats,” he wrote in an editorial. “She roams about in all directions, but she's still always at the same time gentle and kind to her nearest and dearest.”
The party has distilled its new election message into a three sentence slogan, the elements of which will already be familiar to people who have listened to recent speeches from Prime Minister Stefan Löfven.
“Sweden will be safer, with better welfare, and a tougher push against crime. Sweden is stronger when we all stick together. The Swedish model should be built up, not ripped up.”
As well as the 350,000 potential Sweden Democrat voters, the party is also targeting 750,000 voters it calls “blockbrytare”, meaning “bloc breakers”, Swedes who swing between the Social Democrats to the Alliance bloc of centre-right parties.