Sweden may soon have a centre-right prime minister – an unusual turn of events for a country in which the Social Democrats have won 19 of the last 24 elections. Ulf Kristersson, leader of the Moderate party, is now set to take power. ‘I am now starting the work of forming a new, effective government,’ he said ‘A government for all of Sweden and all citizens.’
But it’s a government that is not really due to his success: his party, the Moderates, actually lost ground in the election and finished third for the first time in decades. He is preparing for power thanks to the success of another party: the anti-immigration Sweden Democrats (SD).
You might have heard of them: a party often described as ‘neo-fascist’ or ‘far right’. Their roots are indeed more problematic than those of many anti-establishment parties in Europe given that they sprang from a genuinely extremist movement. But their agenda now cannot be described as right-wing extremism. And they had one great advantage: for many years they were the only party to criticise Sweden’s immigration policy. It’s not racist, they insisted, to discuss what’s going wrong, and this is a view that was increasingly widely shared.
For the best part of a decade, as gang-related gun crime and grenade attacks escalated across Sweden, the SD had a near-monopoly on the hottest topic in the country. It’s no real surprise then that they are now Sweden’s second-biggest party with 21 per cent of the vote, the most successful movement of this sort in Europe. And although they may now lend their votes to a Kristersson coalition, it’s far from certain that they want to help him govern.
In fact, being in government might seriously compromise their progress.