Sweden Democrats party with neo-Nazi roots, mass migration crisis from Muslim countries

The Sweden Democrats put up a campaign sign in Stockholm last month with the slogan "Sweden Will Be Great Again."

The Sweden Democrats put up a campaign sign in Stockholm last month with the slogan "Sweden Will Be Great Again."

How the far right stopped Sweden’s election from going well.

The Sweden Democrats, a party with neo-Nazi roots, got more people to vote for them by running ads about immigration, religion, crime, and how much environmental rules cost.

Magnus Karlsson is 43 years old and works in IT. He is about to start his own business. He is articulate and thoughtful, and he pays close attention to the news in Sweden and around the world.

But he was tired of what he saw as the Swedish political establishment’s lack of concern about immigration, crime, and inflation. So, he voted for the first time for the Sweden Democrats last week.

The party, which was started in 1988 and has roots in the neo-Nazi movement, got 20.5% of the vote on Sunday. This gave it the second-highest number of seats in Parliament, after the center-left Social Democrats. It got more votes than the more traditional center-right Moderates party, whose leader, Ulf Kristersson, is expected to become prime minister. It is the biggest party in the right-leaning coalition that is expected to form the next government.

Even though they got a lot of votes, the Sweden Democrats won’t be in the cabinet. This is because another coalition partner, the smaller Liberal Party, said no to the idea. But the Sweden Democrats and their leader, Jimmie Akesson, are likely to have a big impact on how the government runs. The party is very anti-immigrant and is also likely to want changes to how police work, how criminal justice works, how social benefits work, and how rules about the environment work.

In Filipstad, Sweden, flags are strung across a road. In 2019, 2,000 refugees from many different countries lived in the town of 10,000 people.

From Mr. Karlsson’s point of view, the most important thing is immigration. “As a country, we’ve been naive—what that’s makes us Swedes, it’s in our DNA—and we’ve always thought the best of migrants and refugees,” he said. “But if those people take advantage of us and our kindness, we might have to change our minds.”

Sweden has always been welcoming to political refugees. During the 2015 mass migration crisis, Sweden took in more migrants and asylum seekers per person than any other country in Europe, including Germany. Most of these people came from Muslim countries. But the center-left Social Democrats, who have been in power for the last eight years, have failed in many people’s eyes to integrate the newcomers, while the far right has made progress by linking the long-standing problem of gun crime to immigration.

Researchers say that more research is needed to find out if there is a link between immigration and gun violence. Other European countries with similar levels of immigration have not seen the same rise in gun violence.

Still, Mr. Karlsson is very firm. “Swedish society is great and open, but it’s falling apart,” he said, citing gang violence, shootings, the lack of integration policies, and open borders.

He also said, “We need a change, and I think the Sweden Democrats are more in line with my ideas.”

A podiatrist named Maria Celander, who is 42 years old, also voted for the Sweden Democrats. She lives in Staffanstorp, a suburb of Malmo where the crime rate is higher than in any other Swedish city.

She said, “We’ve taken in too many refugees, and it’s messed up everything here.” “We don’t have enough money to help everyone.”

She said she didn’t hate immigrants. “It’s not that those of us who voted for them are racists,” she said. “We are normal people who want order. I want the country to be safer.”

She said that she thought the Sweden Democrats would try to lower energy prices and make it easier to protect the environment. “We take care of the environment well here, but if people on the other side of the world don’t do the same, it won’t help if we don’t drive cars or do other things.”

In June, police officers walked around Rinkeby Square in Stockholm. In this year’s election, gun violence was one of the most talked about issues.

But both Mr. Karlsson and Ms. Celander are worried that the party won’t be able to get new policies put into place. They worry that the party will follow what they see as the usual pattern of coalition governments, which is to make bland compromises and little change. And both would like it better if the party was in the government with ministerial jobs instead of just trying to change it.

Ms. Celander said, “I hope they want to stand for what they say they stand for.” “You can’t just go around telling everyone what you’re going to do and not help run the country.”

Even though he voted for the Moderates in 2018, Mr. Karlsson also wants the Sweden Democrats to “walk the walk.” He knows that the coalition is complicated, but he said, “We have to let them into government and see what they can do. Either they can handle it, or they’re just another group of people getting together to complain about things.”

Christian Sonesson has some idea of what it might mean to give the Sweden Democrats some power. He is a Moderate, and he has been mayor of Staffanstorp since 2012. In 2018, he made a local coalition with the far-right party because he agreed with their policies on taxes, government, schools, crime, and the economy. It caused a stir in the national party, but he said that the coalition has been successful at the local level.

“I saw that these people weren’t as bad as the media made them out to be,” he said. He also said, “They were very close to us. Keep taxes as low as possible. Don’t let gangs get a grip.” The local coalition put up surveillance cameras and hired security guards. As a result, Mr. Sonesson said, there was a big drop in violence and disturbances, and people felt much safer.

He also said that it was interesting that local support for the Sweden Democrats had gone down a bit while votes for his Moderates had gone up.

He said, “People don’t like it when a party with 20 to 30 percent of the vote has no power.” “Most people think that’s unfair.”

He said that the Sweden Democrats would grow if they were left out in the cold. He said, “They get so big that they can run themselves.” “But if you let them join your coalition and make them take responsibility, their popularity will rise or fall based on what they do,” he said.

In June, police in the Rinkeby neighborhood of Stockholm took pictures of guns they had found and taken away.

Many people are worried about normalizing an extreme party that has played fear and racism as its main cards, especially through its online magazine Samtiden and the YouTube channel it runs. The Sweden Democrats want the country’s borders to be completely closed. They have also called for halal meat to be banned in schools and said that the previous center-left government was too soft on migrants, crime, and Islamist extremists.

In the past, Mr. Akesson, who is the leader of the Sweden Democrats, has said that Muslim immigration to Sweden is “our biggest foreign threat since the Second World War.”

But more and more people think that ostracizing the party just lets it criticize without taking any responsibility.

Anders Falk, 64, is a manager at a construction company. He thinks it’s dangerous for the Sweden Democrats to try to control things from the back, and he’d rather they take charge in government. He talked about how far-right populist parties in Denmark, Finland, and Norway either became more moderate in government or failed and lost support.

Votes were counted last week in Stockholm.

He said that the Social Democrats deserved to lose because “integration didn’t work,” and it seemed like “a taboo” for established politicians to talk about problems like crime and unemployment. “I think the rest of Europe is laughing at us,” he said, referring to the effects of the migrant crisis. “Other countries were much stricter about immigrants, and we took full responsibility.”

Erik Andersson is 25 years old and works in TV and movies. He said he was upset about how hard it was for coalition governments to make real changes. Even though he doesn’t agree with the Sweden Democrats and didn’t vote for them, he said they should be given the chance to rule—and fail.

He said, “People will realize they can’t do anything, and they’ll fall off a cliff.”

But their success can teach Sweden something, said Mr. Andersson. “They talked about things that should be looked into, but no one wanted to talk about them because they were taboo.” Now, he said, you can see the results.

“You need to be able to talk about problems openly, because if you can’t, extremism will grow,” he said. “You have to be able to talk openly and stand up to extremists.”

Exit mobile version