On the 9th of September of this year Swedes turned out in large to numbers to exercise their Democratic rights and vote in the 349 members of the Riksdag, the national legislature responsible for making some of the most important decisions in Sweden. This year the political climate was different in Sweden, the issues that were most prominent in the elections and news cycle revolved around immigration, violent crime and the increasing frustration with the current major political parties.
Currently, the two largest parties in Sweden are the Social Democrats, who won 28.40% of the vote, and the Moderates, who won 19.84% of the vote. These two parties have remained the dominant political forces for almost a century, with the Social Democrats being centre-left and the Moderates being centre-right. However, this has changed significantly as the Swedish Democrats, who’ve been in the election cycle for 16 years, managed to win 17.60% of the vote this last general election causing both major parties to lose support.
The Swedish Democrats, led by Jimmie Akesson, have put forward policies that are appealing to larger portions of the population each election cycle, as their increase in percentage from 12.90% in 2014 to their current numbers shows. These policies include cutting back immigration numbers, clamping down on crime, introducing language and culture tests as requirements for citizenship, spending more on elderly care and the military, and holding a referendum on Sweden’s membership to the European Union.
Sweden’s election, like those in Italy, Germany, France, Austria, Hungary, Denmark, the Netherlands and Czech Republic, saw the rise of parties whose platform was focused on the increasing numbers of migrants and associated concerns. Currently, the Social Democrats have joined forces with the Greens (4.3%) and the Left party (7.9%) to form the Centre-left bloc. And the Moderates have joined forces with the Centre party (8.6%), Christian Democrats (6.4%) and the Liberals (5.5%) to form the Alliance bloc.
Both of these coalitions have stated that they will not work with the Swedish Democrats despite the fact that Akesson has stated he is willing to work with them. What these numbers mean is that no party can form a majority, i.e. hold 175 seats, in the Riksdag. This may be a bad position for the two major coalitions but puts the Swedish Democrats in a good position, providing they can find a way to work with either of the two major political blocs.
The future for Sweden looks tumultuous as the ruling Centre-left bloc and their main opposition, the Alliance bloc, have struggled to work together in the past despite occasionally doing so. The Swedish Democrats are predicted to continue to grow in numbers as they’ve done so over the past decade and this will only lead to more tension and instability in the future if both blocs refuse to work with them in any capacity.
There is hope for stability and change though, as many of the concerns the average Swede has are being pushed to the front of the political agenda. Already Sweden has seen a huge drop in applications for Asylum from 160,000 in 2015 to just 29,000 in 2016 and 36,700 in 2017. This decrease can in some way be seen as the Swedish governments attempts to address the concerns of the average Swede, of which 51% view immigration as somewhat negative. This may see the Swedish Democrats lose their gains or at least slow their momentum in the coming years.
Although this is doubtful as Sweden’s history has shown that governments are often quite slow at addressing the concerns of their population, causing discontent and a shift in the status quo, as the Swedish Democrats increasing popularity proves.
Author | Jake Kay currently holds a Bachelor’s Degree in International Relations and is studying Economics.