“You can get upset about the party and you can say bad things about their supporters, but the Sweden Democrats are a result of bad politics in my opinion,” said Emil Nilsson, 37, who was one of the first to vote for the populist party on Sunday morning.
“The way I see it SD is a protest party and they wouldn't have needed to exist if politics had been done in another way,” he said, hugging his eight-year-old daughter Maria.
Fredrik Sigleifs, 22, said he was voting for the party because he thought they would shake up Sweden's stagnant politics.
“I want to stir up the stew in the pot,” he said. “It's been the same shit now for for ever and ever.”
“There have been a lot of immigrants over the last four years and I think there aren't really enough jobs, education opportunities or housing for them.”
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Fredrik Sigleifs wants to “stir up the pot”. Photo: Richard Orange
Anti-immigrant feeling goes back a long way in the town.
Thirty years ago next month, locals voted by a two thirds majority to refuse to take any refugees at all in a local referendum that was an inspiration for the anti-immigration Sweden Democrats, which launched the same year with the slogan “Sjöbo shows the way”.
The local mayor who arranged the vote, Sven-Olle Olsson, was expelled from the Centre Party for doing so, and went on to form the local Sjöbo Party, where he continued to campaign against immigration.
Lars-Wilhelm Larsson, group leader of the Sweden Democrats in the town, said he had himself voted in favour of a total moratorium on refugees back in 1988, and said he wished that the referendum result had been acted on.
“If Sweden had changed course in Sven-Olle's time, we wouldn't have had the problems we have today,” he said, taking a break with fellow activists in a local café. “We have had a real problem with immigration.”
Lars-Wilhelm Larsson is group leader for the Sweden Democrats in Sjöbo. Photo: Richard Orange
The district remains one of the Sweden Democrats' strongholds. Nearly 30 percent of people in the town voted for the party in the parliamentary elections in 2014, although the continuing strength of the Sjöbo Party reduced the party's share to 20 percent locally.
Andre Af Geijerstam, who is second on the Sweden Democrats' candidate list for the municipality, said he hoped the party could get between 30 percent and 35 percent of the vote on Sunday, allowing it to topple the local government run by the centre-right Moderate Party.
“We can absolutely take power,” he said. “They've sat in power so long that they feel pretty secure in their seats.”
His hope, he said, was for the party to be so much bigger than the Moderates that the Christian Democrats would join them in a coalition together with the Sjöbo Party.
“If we get more than 30 percent we can absolutely do that. If we only get 20 percent, then the Alliance can stay in place,” he said.
Lars Lundberg, the leader of the local Christian Democrats, seemed open to cooperating with the Sweden Democrats, saying that he would not be concerned if his party and the centre-right Moderates took power nationally with their support .
“Twenty-five percent of the people vote for them, so if they want to support a government with normal policies, I think it's ok,” he said. “I think it's better that they should be inside the barriers than outside.”
Lundberg's election sausage. Photo: Richard Orange
He has distributed more than 1,000 of his own “Lundbergakorv” to potential voters, Swedish meat-only sausages which claim to be “guaranteed free from 'valfläsk' (election pork)'”.
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Sjöbo is not the only municipality the party hopes to win in Skåne, its stronghold in southern Sweden, according to Jörgen Grubb, the party chairman in the nearby city of Malmö.
“We have 33 municipalities in Skåne and I think that in at least 10 to 15, we're going to be the biggest party overall,” he said. “I don't think we are going to have more than 50 percent in any, but in some, we are going to have some sort of coalition. We are going to rule.”
Local Sweden Democrat voters in Sjöbo, however, were doubtful that their party could win real influence at a national level.
“I'm not sure that they'll get it, but then it's just a question of waiting for another four years,” Nilsson said. “If they shut them out, people will get more and more irritated. If they get 20 percent to 25 percent, it's going to be hard to freeze out a fourth or a fifth of the Swedish people.”
Some of the first to turn up on Sunday morning were locals born outside Sweden.
Admir Shkodra, 32, who came from Kosovo in the 1990s, said he was voting for the Social Democrats because he wanted to stop the Sweden Democrats having a say over immigration.
“I don't want to vote myself out of the country,” he said. “I have a little daughter I have to think about, and she has both a foreign parent and a Swedish one. I'm very surprised that foreigners are voting Sweden Democrat.”
“I don't want to vote myself out of the country,” says Admir Shkodra. Photo: Richard Orange
Aminat Iakubova, 48, who came to Sweden from Chechnya in 2002, said this was the first time she had voted, despite being eligible to do so for two previous elections
“I hadn't read so much about them before,” she said of the Sweden Democrats. “Before, I thought my vote didn't mean much but this time I thought 'I need to do it.'”
Aminat Iakubova believes that it's important to vote this year. Photo: Richard Orange