For those few that may have missed this news, Sweden held a general election over the weekend. The governing (just) right-of-center coalition won (more or less) re-election, the first time that this has happened in modern Swedish history. Good for them. The edge, however, has been taken off their victory by the success of Sweden’s Democrats, a party once marooned on the far rightist fringe and best known today for its criticism of the way that Sweden’s elite signed the country up both for multiculturalism and a relaxed immigration regime, a policy combo that works nowhere and never.
Scroll back a few years and Sweden’s Democrats were a party with a vicious neo-nazi fringe and an unpleasant affinity for the politics of the street. Since then they have gone some way (the jury is still out on how far) to cleaning up their act. They have now been rewarded by Swedish voters: The party won 5.7 percent of the vote over the weekend, a tally large enough to have taken it into parliament—and deprive the center-right of an outright majority.
There’ll be plenty to say at some later date about the wellsprings of the party’s appeal: As this fine piece by the Guardian’s Andrew Brown (a journalist who knows Sweden very well) makes clear, it is about immigration, but it is also about nostalgia for the fading collectivist certainties of the Social Democratic Folkhem.
There will also be plenty to say later about what the party’s success could mean for the future of Swedish politics. On one view, it’s possible to forecast the evolution of Sweden’s Democrats into a party of the mainstream populist right, similar to what has been seen in both Norway and Denmark, a transformation that could transform Sweden’s political landscape in a way that Cameron lites such as prime minister Fredrik Reinfeldt would neither wish nor be likely to achieve. Equally, the party could crash and burn, falling back into the fever swamps from which it so recently emerged.
For now, however, let’s just ponder the response of the Swedish political establishment to the vote, a carefully choreographed display of moral panic, buttressed by declarations that nobody serious will be talking to these upstarts, a display that may (judging by a number of conversations I have had today) have irritated a number of Swedes who would otherwise have had nothing to do with the new party.