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How would the Moderate Party change life for foreigners in Sweden?

The Moderate Party's election manifesto is the longest of all Sweden's eight political parties, and is positively crammed with policy proposals. Here are the ones that affect foreigners in Sweden.

How would the Moderate Party change life for foreigners in Sweden?
Moderate Party leader Ulf Kristersson presents the party's manifesto on Tuesday. Photo: Fredrik Sandberg/TT

You can read the whole manifesto, This is how we bring order back to Sweden (Så får vi ordning på Sverige), here.

How will foreigners hoping to move to Sweden be affected? 

It would definitely get more difficult, with the Moderates planning to reduce asylum migration “the same levels as Denmark and Norway”, which given how hard it has become to get asylum in Denmark should mean quite a substantial tightening of migration rules. 

The party is promising to tighten up asylum laws to minimum level allowed under EU rules, roughly matching the proposals made by the populist Sweden Democrats on Wednesday. 

The party is also pledging to abolish the current spårbyte or “track change” system, which allows those who claim asylum in Sweden and get rejected to instead apply for a work permit.

How will foreigners newly arrived in Sweden be affected? 

Once foreigners have arrived in Sweden, the Moderates are proposing making it much more difficult for them to access financial support from the government. 

The party is pledging to demand that newly arrived immigrants be denied unemployment payments and other benefits until they have qualified for them by working and paying a certain amount of tax. 

The party also proposes to punish immigrants who fail to meet the ‘individual knowledge goals’ set by their Swedish for Immigrants (SFI) teachers by stripping away part of their benefits payments. 

In the manifesto, it says that all “newly arrived” immigrants, or nyanlända, will have to go through mandatory “community orientation” or samhällsorientering, which will focus on Swedish values, with a section on LGBT rights and gender equality. Elsewhere, the party has said this is only for asylum seekers, so it may be that this does not apply to all immigrants. 

Passing a test on Swedish culture and society will be essential for those applying for citizenship. 

The party is also demanding that foreigners wanting to obtain a coordination number appear in person. 

How will foreigners with families be affected? 

Asylum seekers who come to Sweden will have to go through a mandatory process of “honour crime screening” to make sure they do not limit the freedom of or otherwise oppress family members for religious or cultural reasons. 

If they do, they risk falling foul of a new crime, “illegal limiting of freedom”, which the party hopes to bring in during the next mandate period. 

Foreigners with three-year-old children will have to send them for a language screening to make sure that they speak adequate Swedish, and if they don’t, the three-year-olds may be sent to a mandatory ‘language kindergarten’. 

Foreigners who are worried about having their children taken into care by Swedish social services (as some are) will probably have additional cause for concern. The manifesto promises to “make sure that more [people, children] are taken into care under LVU (Lagen om Vård av Unga)”. This is the law under which social services can take children into care.  

“Children who grow up in criminal clans”, will also automatically be taken into care under the party’s proposals, while the “clan members” themselves will be deported. 

Foreigners with big families could also take a hit from the proposal to remove extra child benefit, flerbarnstillägg, after a family’s fourth child. 

How will unemployed foreigners be affected? 

Foreigners who are unemployed look likely to have a tougher time, as the Moderates propose bringing in a “welfare cap”, so that the total amount of welfare payments a person gets can never exceed what they would earn in a job. 

The party also proposes allowing raids on the houses of people living on benefits “to find malpractices”. 

The party also proposes a “full time activity requirement”, for anyone getting government support, meaning benefits recipients must be either studying full time, applying for jobs full time, or else carrying out useful tasks organised in their local area. 

How will those living in Sweden on work permits be affected? 

The party has promised to “stop talent deportations”, or kompetensutvisningar, but does not give any details over how this will be done. 

How will foreigners wanting to live in Sweden permanently be affected? 

The party wants to bring in language requirements for permanent residency and citizenship. 

It also wants to make passing a test on Swedish culture and society mandatory for those applying for citizenship. 

How will foreigners who get into trouble with the police be affected? 

Anyone holding foreign citizenship in addition to or instead of Swedish citizenship risks becoming a second-class citizen under the law in the Moderates’ proposals. 

The party is proposing to deport anyone with foreign citizenship who commits a crime that comes with a prison sentence. 

Foreigners might want to be careful who they hang out with, as any suspected gang members who aren’t Swedish citizens will be deported, “even if they are not found guilty of a crime”.

Anyone without Swedish citizenship who commits an honour crime, presumably including the new crime of “illegal limiting of freedom”, can be deported. 

How might the Moderate Party improve foreigners’ finances? 

The manifesto is chock full of proposals to cut taxes and help ward off the worst impact of the current cost of living crisis. 

The party is promising to cut income tax, although it doesn’t say by how much, and to create a system that adds up tax rises and tax cuts to ensure that the overall tax burden does not increase over the mandate period. 

Foreigners with share portfolios will benefit from the party’s proposals to cut the tax on ISK individual share accounts (Sweden’s version of an ISA). 

The party is also promising to cut the price of petrol and diesel and to bring in “high cost protection” for electricity prices, meaning consumers’ electricity bills will be subsidised by the government if the power price rises above a certain level.

How might the Moderate Party help foreigners who own businesses? 

The party is rather ambitiously promising to remove “three quarters of red tape and admin costs” for companies, which, if you believe it is possible, will certainly help foreign business owners. 

What else do they want to do? 

Here are some of the other proposals we picked out of the document: 

  • Allow shop owners to bar unwanted customers 
  • Create a ‘job bonus’ for long term unemployed who get a job
  • Cut tax for pensioners, and bring in a system which gives pensioners extra money during periods of strong economic growth
  • Remove tax on incinerators generating heat and power 
  • Increase punishment for welfare fraud and set up a welfare fraud unit at Sweden’s benefits agency
  • Stop paying out benefits to extremists
  • Allow police and social services to share more information 
  • Set up a national programme to help people leave criminal gangs
  • Increase punishment for violent and sexual crimes
  • Get rid of reduced punishments for under-18s, and those committing multiple crimes 
  • Make sure there are 10,000 more police by 2028 
  • Spend more on police salaries, and pay off student loans from those who study to be police officers when they start work 
  • Increase number of CCTV cameras
  • Make membership of a criminal gang a crime
  • Double punishments for gang members 
  • Triple minimum punishment for weapons crimes to six years 
  • Stop all welfare payments to gang members 
  • Seize luxury goods held by gang members if they can’t show how they paid for them
  • Allow long-term use of electronic ankle bracelets for persistent criminals
  • Automatic life sentence for murders in close family relations 
  • Consider setting up youth prisons and reduce age where you can be punished 
  • Change long-term goal of energy policy from 100 percent renewable to 100 percent fossil free 
  • Change regulation of nuclear power, removing requirement reactors can only be built on site of existing ones
  • Tell Sweden’s state-owned power company Vattenfall to look into building new reactor at Ringhals
  • Bring in green credit guarantees for new nuclear, bring in state high-cost guarantee for new nuclear 
  • Reduce the amount of protected woodland that can’t be used for forestry
  • Sell “a large share” of state-owned forest to people connected to local areas 
  • Extra schooling in holidays for children who fall behind 
  • Instruct Swedish National Council for Crime Prevention to survey criminal clans in Sweden 
  • Criminalise clan courts and other parallel justice systems 
  • Ban cousin marriage 
  • Establish special “criminal clan division” within Swedish police
  • Increase military spending to 2 percent of GDP by 2025 
  • Scrap Sweden’s goal that aid spending should be 1 percent of GDP 
  • Strengthen healthcare guarantee for cancer patients, allowing them to get treated in other regions 
  • Work towards a constitutional right to abortion 
  • Make sure pregnant women can have same team of midwives from early pregnancy to post pregnancy 
  • Language requirement for those working in health and elderly care
  • Increase school hours by an hour a day in first three years of primary school 
  • Focus on measurable factual knowledge in schools like Finland does 
  • Reduce requirement for teachers to document their activities 
  • Empower headteachers to intervene when classrooms get rowdy 
  • Bring in new crime of “violence against teachers” 
  • Make it obligatory for everyone to choose a school for their children 
  • Give Swedish Schools Inspectorate power to shut schools which lead to segregation and radicalisation 
  • Create a common municipal queue system which includes free schools
  • Scrap plans for high-speed rail 
  • Expand Arlanda airport to make it leading airport in the north 
  • Get rid of protection of coastal areas so new houses can be built on beaches and lakesides 
  • Tighten up responsibility for public officials 
  • Make LGBT and gender equality a crucial part of community orientation 
  • Bring in a “national honour-crime screening” for all asylum seekers 
  • Criminalise virginity tests 
  • Permit unpaid surrogacy in Sweden
  • End limits on blood donation for gay people
  • Ban conversion therapy to change sexual or gender identity 

Member comments

  1. “Stop paying out benefits to extremists” Does it mean they gonna cut Swedish democrats benefits as well? The Extreme has two ends. Are they only focusing on one end?

  2. I wonder, how will the program to help people leave criminal gangs work if these individuals are at risk of imprisonment for becoming a member, losing social support and possibly being deported? I feel that these two goals are contradictory. The mixture of these gang related proposals does not seem to solve the problem to me if they are all implemented. Would it not be better to incentivize leaving a gang?

    And does Finland focus more on measurable facutal knowledge? I thought their educational system was more holistic.

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How the Sweden Democrats grew even in their most turbulent stronghold

Sweden Democrat rule in the country town of Hörby has been so turbulent it's a little like Trump's America in miniature. And yet in this month's election, the party grew its share of the vote by four percentage points anyway. What does its success say about the far-right party nationally?

How the Sweden Democrats grew even in their most turbulent stronghold

There have been allegations of tax avoidance, tough policies for migrants, inappropriate drunken nakedness, and a mass departure of civil servants. There have been complaints of a biased media and an entrenched “deep state” resisting every effort to reform. 

The four years of Sweden Democrat rule in the Swedish municipality of Hörby have seen, if not all then at least a bit of, the drama of Donald Trump’s America, played out in and around a country market town of 15,000 people.

Yet when the Sweden’s Democrat’s performance was put to the vote, it raised its share of the vote here by four percentage points, winning an impressive 39 percent. 

“We were shrieking with joy. This was something we could only dream of,” says Cecilia Bladh in Zito, the town’s Sweden Democrat mayor, when The Local meets her in her office, which is decorated with black and white photos of horses being traded at long-gone country fairs.

Hörby, a 40-minute drive northeast of Malmö in the Skåne countryside, was one of four towns the populist Sweden Democrats controlled at the time of Sweden’s general election two weeks ago. This month, it grew its share of the vote between three and ten percentage points in every one.

“We are very, very happy about the trust that we got from our voters,” Bladh in Zito continues. “I strongly believe that [it’s because] the way we are dealing with questions is very real. It’s reality-based political issues. We have both our feet on the ground, and we listen to our voters and the people here in the municipality. What do you need, what do you want?”

The party has managed to keep open the small schools in the villages surrounding the town, which there had been plans to close and consolidate. 

“We said, ‘no, no, no, no way’, because if we take away the countryside schools, the countryside will die out or later,” she says.

It has hired security guards for the city centre, and cut the amount of spending on social welfare by a quarter, she claimed.  

“For the fourth year in a row now, we are increasing safety here in Hörby, so we have less problems now than we had before,” she boasts. 

Cecilia Bladh in Zito, the mayor of Hörby, holds a press conference about the fire in the town. Photo: Johan Nilsson/TT

Bladh in Zito and her team have certainly shaken things up, imposing a new organisational structure on the municipality. “We are driving through real change from the ground up, changing the way we look at costs, and changing a lot of the steering documents,” she says.

The SD-led council has tried to halve the municipal budget for “mother-tongue education”, where children with foreign backgrounds are given an hour’s teaching each week in their home language. It has stopped the gay pride rainbow flag from being flown on municipality buildings. It has scrapped an ambition to be “fossil-free by 2020”, and also claims to have slashed the budget for social benefits by a quarter, again by tightening rules for immigrants.

Someone has taped a pride flag to the sign at the entrance of Hörby municipality as a protest. Photo: Johan Nilsson/TT

But it may be that people in Hörby voted for the far-right party itself more than for what it did in the town. 

“I think it’s a protest, a protest against those who sit and rule the municipality, who haven’t been listening to the problems people on the ground are facing, and anyway and there’s no one who could do it better,” says 81-year-old Kerstin, as she drags her shopping in a wheeled bag across one of the town’s two central squares.

She voted for the party both in 2018 and again this year because of what she sees as the complacency of the established parties.

The party grew its share of the vote in nearly nine out of every ten municipalities across Sweden, gaining both in its heartlands here in Skåne, and in the northern regions of the country traditionally dominated by the Social Democrats.

READ ALSO: What have the Sweden Democrats proved in four years of municipal rule? 

It overtook Sweden’s former farmer’s party, Centre, as the most popular party among agricultural workers, a trend that is likely to be seen Hörby, which is at the centre of some of Sweden’s best agricultural land. 

But as in Trump’s America, the party’s success has divided communities, with Hörby no exception.

“It’s completely crazy that so many people here vote for them,” complains Johan Tinné, co-owner of the central Café Innegarden, who puts the party’s growth down to gang shootings in Sweden’s big cities rather than the performance of Bladh in Zito and her team.

When asked if friends and family also vote for the party, he shakes his head. “The day they start voting for SD, I’ll end all my contact with them.”

Even supporters like Kerstin have misgivings: “There have been stories that haven’t been so nice, but they’ve ridden it out.”

First Stefan Borg, the party’s group leader, withdrew his candidacy for mayor after the activist magazine Expo revealed that he had been spreading pro-Russian propaganda, writing posts about “the last generation of Swedes” and “the great replacement”, and making homophobic statements on social media. Bladh in Zito then stepped in. 

Both Borg and Bladh in Zito are strangely cosmopolitan figures for small-town Swedish politics, and both have a connection to Russia (albeit only a slight one in her case). 

After retiring from his career as a fighter pilot, Borg spent years in Russia learning the language, and told The Local in 2018 that he made his living as “a translator of Russian religious philosophy in the tradition of Dostoevsky”.

Bladh in Zito grew up in the town but spent her 20s and 30s working as a consultant and energy executive in Stockholm, Germany and Rome. According to her LinkedIn profile, she studied in 2000 at Saint Petersburg Electrotechnical University. 

At the start of 2020, seven unions representing civil servants, teachers and other municipal workers raised the alarm after a mass departure of top civil servants, and reports of a bullying culture.

“It’s a very toxic environment,” Maria Westlund, chief health and safety representative for the Saco union told the Telegraph. “The working environment has been hostile: People don’t get information shared with them, they get left out of emails. People talk crap about them when they’re not there. They’re not included in meetings.” 

Renaldo Tirone, leader of the local Social Democrats, accuses the mayor of “ruling by fear”.

But when the struggle was raging, Borg dismissed it in a Facebook post: ”What’s happening is an attempt by the Deep State, through the unions, to take back political power in Hörby.”

Bladh in Zito argues that it was a good thing that civil servants left the municipality if they were opposed to the structural reforms or didn’t want to enact the ruling parties’ plans. 

“Some people said, ‘ok, I don’t want to work in the new organisation’ because they had lost a title, or maybe even lost some power. That’s fine. That’s understandable. That’s very normal. The other thing is that we had some civil servants at the beginning, who said, ‘we don’t want to work in a municipality where the Sweden Democrats are the rulers. We don’t want to work there’.”

She claims, however, that over the four years as a whole, the churn among council civil servants has not been larger than at other comparable municipalities. 

Then the civil servant in charge of the municipality’s social services had to resign after a naked swimming incident at a staff social event.

Most recently, this June, the Aftonbladet tabloid accused Bladh in Zito of paying Polish builders at least 2.5 million kronor in cash to avoid tax when renovating her historic house in the town centre. She claims her Italian ex-husband handled the payments.

She says that her ex-husband, who is conveniently nowhere to be found, was responsible for paying for the renovation, so she can’t say anything about how the builders were paid. But anyway, she claims, she is the victim of a biased left-wing media, with the journalist behind the story “as far left as you can go”. 

“They do not want Sweden Democrats to have the power, and they’ve been trying for four years, even before I was elected, to kick us out,” she says. “They asked my former employers if I did something wrong, they’ve been pushing me politically for three and a half years, and now, because they couldn’t find anything in my professional or political life, they going after my private side.”

For Westlund, Bladh in Zito’s refusal to answer detailed questions about the renovation, like her refusal to work closely with unions, are signs of a worryingly closed and secretive approach.

“They don’t answer the press, they don’t answer when other parties ask them things. They just keep everything quiet,” she says. “I feel like it’s not a democracy anymore.”

Bladh in Zito, on the other hand, thinks the party’s local gains have proven that it can rule responsibly.

“There will always be people who don’t like us, we can never change that,” she says. “But I hope they understand that we don’t bite, we are not neo-Nazis, we are not fascists, and we are not racists. We are a party which has reality-based political views.”
“We’ve done very well in all our four municipalities, and I hope that can give the Moderates the bravery to start cooperating with us at a national level.”