‘The xenophobic rhetoric is shocking’: Your views on Sweden’s election

There's only two and a half weeks left before election day, and, judging by our readers' survey, foreigners in Sweden are disappointed, upset, and in some cases frightened by the anti-immigrant rhetoric.

'The xenophobic rhetoric is shocking': Your views on Sweden's election
A Sweden Democrat election cottage on the Sergels torg square, Stockholm. Photo: Fredrik Persson/TT

Of the 20 responses we have received so far, almost all expressed disquiet at the rhetoric on immigration and integration in the election, which they perceived as coming from both the ruling Social Democrats and from the four rightwing parties trying to unseat them.

“I’ve found the focus on foreigners very confronting. Foreigners seem to be presented as the source of all Sweden’s problems. I worry this is a message that will impact my children,” wrote Kaia, 42, an Australian living outside Stockholm. 

“The degree of xenophobic rhetoric by the major parties is shocking, and saddening,” agreed one US citizen, based outside Gothenburg. “I feel deeply unwelcome when I see that parties representing four-fifths of the electorate are proudly repeating anti-immigrant rhetoric, and then go on to hear the same from many Swedish colleagues.”

 Yénika Castillo Muñoz said he had found the discourse in the election “quite aggressive”. 

“From using fear to pointing directly at the migrant population as the causes of social issues – unemployment, insecurity, inequity – it’s almost like the parties are taking the opportunity to talk aggressive trash that looks like campaign promises but might not even be possible in practice,” she argued.

READ ALSO: How have you been finding Sweden’s election so far? 

A British resident based in Skåne had similar concerns. 

“The rhetoric being espoused, that [suggests] the solution to integration starts and ends with the behaviour of immigrants is frankly outdated and shows a general lurch towards right wing politics,” she complained. “No one is suggesting that Swedes bear any responsibility towards integration. If they really cared about integration they would strengthen access to and quality of SFI, as well as promote for Swedish nationals to take the time and effort to become friends with their non Swedish neighbours.”

“Immigration discourse is being led by the far right which seems to blame immigration for all problems,” said another Australian, also based in Stockholm.”Alternativ för Sverige make me feel unwelcome and unwanted. The Sweden Democrats blame foreigners for healthcare queues. The number of people who support these viewpoints is troubling.” 

It wasn’t simply the strong negative rhetoric on immigration, integration and crime that concerned readers, but the way the issue was eclipsing other issues, such as improving the quality of healthcare and education in Sweden, and the climate crisis. 

“Real problems like inflation, rents, [and the] climate crisis, are not really being tackled by the major parties,” Muñoz said. “Many in my network are wondering who the hell are we going to vote for – even people that were quite sure in their votes [in the last] elections.” 

“Its disappointing and vague. I think the country needs to massively invest in primary healthcare or support a more functional private primary healthcare option,” said the second Australian. “No one seems to say anything other than vague platitudes like ‘shorten the queue’ or ‘regardless of wallet’, when what is needed is simply about three times the current number of staff. There has also been too much focus on crime, which is really a non-issue compared to health and education.” 

“After the record heatwaves, forest fires and droughts through Europe this summer, why is the focus on immigration and not the environment?” asked the Brit in Skåne. 

Some foreigners said they missed a sensible, technocratic alternative in the election. 

“It feels like the solutions are too extreme: either ban everything without a clear plan and risk destabilising the economy, or do nothing to speed up decreasing fossil fuel dependency,” said Ovidiu, from Romania. “Either give police too much power or none at all; Either stop funding school or do nothing to fix problems or the other way around, ‘throw money at the problem’. Since I arrived in Sweden I have been impressed about a lot of things and solutions this Scandinavian country has implemented throughout time, but now it feels like people are intentionally acting stupidly and disingenuously.”

Taken together, respondents said they found the quality of debate in the election poor, with the 24 respondents on average rating the debate at 4 out of 10, with 0 being extremely poor and 10 being extremely good. 

They also reported finding the campaign as a whole anti-immigration, with the average respondent rating it 3.9 out of 10, with 0 extremely anti-immigration and 10 extremely pro immigration. 

Member comments

  1. SD is playing by trump’s book and it seems that they are getting what they want, to just blame and don’t offer any solution. Then others try to talk about the same issues as SD ao that they don’t loose the game. Not knowing the winner of this game is only SD and no one else!

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For members


Why is Sweden’s parliamentary speaker election so important?

Sweden's parliamentary speaker is second only to the King in terms of formal rank. The prospect of a Sweden Democrat speaker taking over the role from popular Moderate Andreas Norlén has sparked debate. Here's why.

Why is Sweden's parliamentary speaker election so important?

On Monday, Sweden’s newly-elected parliament will elect a new speaker – talman in Swedish, but it’s still not clear who is likely to take over the post from Moderate Andreas Norlén, who has held the position since 2018.

How is a speaker candidate usually chosen?

There is no formal rule on how a speaker candidate is nominated, with the Social Democrats usually insisting the largest party supplies the speaker, and the Moderates arguing that the largest party in their bloc should provide the speaker.

Until now, that has meant that the Social Democrats believe the speaker should be a Social Democrat, and the Moderates believe the speaker should be a Moderate.

However, with the Sweden Democrats now the second-largest party in Sweden’s parliament, they have made claims on the speaker post, as they are now the largest party in their bloc, meaning under the Moderates’ rules, they should supply the speaker.

This has made the question of who should take over as the new speaker unusually charged.

Often – but not always, the speaker has been from the same party or bloc as the government. However, there are examples, such as in the case of Norlén, who has held the post despite there being a Social Democrat government for the last eight years, as there was a majority supporting him in parliament.

Moderate Party leader Ulf Kristersson sits down for a talk with Andreas Norlén, speaker of the Swedish parliament. Photo: Anders Wiklund / TT

How is the speaker elected?

The first time parliament meets after an election, members of parliament (MPs) decide which MP will become the parliamentary speaker and which three MPs will become the deputy speakers. These four speakers are elected in separate ballots, first the speaker, then the first deputy speaker, the second deputy speaker and the third deputy speaker.

The candidates are nominated by parliamentary party groups, after which a secret ballot is held where each MP votes anonymously. To be successful, a speaker candidate must secure a majority of votes – 175.

If no candidate secures a majority, another vote is held, where a candidate must still gain 175 or more votes to win.

If no candidate is successful, a third vote is held, where the candidate with the most votes is elected – they do not need a majority.

If the third vote ends in a tie between two candidates, lots are drawn to determine which candidate is elected speaker.

A speaker is elected for an entire election period – they cannot be removed by parliament during this period, and the role can only change hands after a new parliamentary election, which usually means that a speaker sits for four years at a time.

What does the speaker do?

The speaker – aside from being the second-highest ranking official in the country after the King – holds a prestigious position.

They do not have political influence and, if elected, must resign from their role as a member of parliament. But they have an important role to play in building a government, nominating Sweden’s new prime minister after an election and dismissing the prime minister if they lose a no-confidence vote.

Although there are checks on these powers – a new prime minister must be approved by parliament before they take power – a speaker could, theoretically, nominate four prime ministerial candidates to parliament in succession, knowing that each would lose a parliamentary vote, and thereby trigger a general election.

The speaker, currently Andreas Norlén (left) regularly welcomes foreign dignitaries alongside Sweden’s King Carl Gustaf. Here seen with King Carl Gustaf (left) and Finland’s President Sauli Niinistö (centre).
Photo: Anders Wiklund/TT

The speaker could also theoretically refuse to nominate a prime ministerial candidate despite them being the leader of the largest bloc, although this has never happened in practice.

It is also impossible for parliament to remove a speaker once they are elected, unless a new parliamentary election is held and an entire new parliament is elected, meaning that if a speaker were to misuse their powers, it would be difficult for parliament to replace them.

The speaker is the main representative of parliament, leading and planning parliamentary activities. The speaker is chairman of meetings in the parliamentary chamber and is an official representative for Sweden at home and abroad.

Why would it be controversial if the Sweden Democrats supplied the speaker?

Electing a Sweden Democrat speaker would be a win for the far-right party, as a confirmation that the party has finally been accepted into the corridors of power.

According to a source at newspaper Aftonbladet, the four parties backing Moderate Party leader Ulf Kristersson to become Sweden’s next prime minister have already agreed on stricter migration and crime policies, as well as who should be voted in as speaker of the country’s parliament when the role goes up for a vote on Monday. 

Multiple parties in the left-wing bloc have objected to a Sweden Democrat supplying the speaker, with outgoing Social Democrat Prime Minister Magdalena Andersson stating that her party is willing to collaborate with the Moderates and reelect Andreas Norlén as Sweden’s speaker instead in order to avoid a Sweden Democrat taking on the role.

Andersson said her party would be willing to “make an exception” to its principle. “We think there are arguments at this time, to have a speaker who can be appointed with very broad support in the parliament. What’s important is that it’s someone who can bring people together, either a Social Democrat or a Moderate”.

“I can state that Andreas Norlén enjoys great respect, both in the parliament, and among the Swedish people,” she said. “He has handled his duties creditably and during a turbulent time, and a problematic parliamentary situation.”

She said she was offering to discuss the issue with Kristersson to avoid the risk of a Sweden Democrat speaker, something she said would be “problematic”.

“This is a party whose whole rationale is to split rather than unite. This is also about the picture of Sweden overseas.”

Moderate Party leader Ulf Kristersson has not responded to Andersson’s comments.

Sweden Democrat former deputy speaker Björn Söder (left) and party leader Jimmie Åkesson (right). Photo: Jessica Gow//TT

There are also some MPs in the Liberal Party – who have agreed to support a Moderate-led government alongside the Sweden Democrats – who have stated they will not approve a government with Sweden Democrat ministers, and may also vote against letting them have the role of speaker.

Sweden Democrat Björn Söder, who held the role of deputy speaker between 2014-18, is a possible candidate for the far-right party. Söder is a controversial figure, having previously stated that Jewish people and Sami are “not Swedes”, leading to calls that he is not suitable for a role as a representative for all of Sweden.

Söder has also previously likened homosexuality to pedophilia and bestiality, stating in an article on the Sweden Democrats’ official online news site that “these sexual aversions are not normal and will never be normal”.

A public petition against electing Björn Söder as parliament’s new speaker had over 65,000 signatures as of September 23rd.