Ignoring Nativists Doesn’t Work in Sweden Either

View of Stockholm, Sweden
View of Stockholm, Sweden (Unsplash/Martin Bjork)

The rise of the far-right Sweden Democrats proves that isolating nativists doesn’t work.

Support for the Sweden Democrats has hovered north of 20 percent since 2015, up from the 13 percent they got in the election a year earlier. They could place second in the election this year, behind the ruling Social Democrats but ahead of the center-right Moderate Party.

Sweden’s mainstream parties have deliberately ignored the far right and most of them share pro-immigration views, making the Sweden Democrats the only recourse for voters who feel their country — the most welcoming to refugees in Europe — has done its part.

With 20 percent of the vote, the Sweden Democrats could block a traditional left- or right-wing government. They already forced Prime Minister Stefan Löfven into an awkward pact with the center-right in the outgoing parliament, reinforcing the impression that the entire political establishment has ganged up on the populists. Read more

Social Democrats in Iberia and Scandinavia Try Opposite Strategies

Prime Minister António Costa of Portugal greets his Spanish counterpart, Pedro Sánchez, in Lisbon, July 2
Prime Minister António Costa of Portugal greets his Spanish counterpart, Pedro Sánchez, in Lisbon, July 2 (Governo da República Portuguesa/Clara Azevedo)

What is the future of European social democracy? Your answer to that question may depend on where you live.

If you’re in the Mediterranean, it’s cooperation with the far left. Social democrats in Portugal and Spain have come to power under deals with far-left parties. In both cases, unwieldy coalitions were greeted with skepticism, but now Prime Ministers António Costa and Pedro Sánchez are riding high in the polls.

In Greece, Alexis Tsipras’ Syriza party has even supplanted the center-left altogether.

In Scandinavia, by contrast, social democrats are trying to win back working-class voters by taking a harder line on borders, crime and defense.

Both strategies appear to be working. Read more

Sweden’s Social Democrats Take Risk with Hardline Policies

French president François Hollande and Swedish prime minister Stefan Löfven attend a meeting with other European socialist leaders in Brussels, June 28, 2016
French president François Hollande and Swedish prime minister Stefan Löfven attend a meeting with other European socialist leaders in Brussels, June 28, 2016 (PES)

Sweden’s Stefan Löfven is taking the fight to the far right. Politico reports that the prime minister and Social Democratic Party leader is implementing a hard line on border control, crime and defense.

With his tough stance, Löfven hopes to avoid the fate of sister parties elsewhere in Europe who have failed to convince voters that they are still relevant now that the welfare states they helped build are well-established.

Polls show the Swedish left down a few points. The nationalist Sweden Democrats have moved up.

Löfven’s party would still get nearly 30 percent support on its own and 40 percent in combination with its left-wing allies; a far cry from the dismal performance of center-left parties in France, the Netherlands and the United Kingdom.

But like social democrats elsewhere, Sweden’s are losing their traditional, working-class supporters to the far right. Read more

The Case for Permanent Coalitions on the Left

Swedish Social Democratic Party leader Stefan Löfven makes a speech in Stockholm, August 10, 2014
Swedish Social Democratic Party leader Stefan Löfven makes a speech in Stockholm, August 10, 2014 (Socialdemokraterna/Anders Löwdin)

Social democratic parties in Europe should make permanent alliances with smaller parties to their left and right in order to keep their constituency united, argues a Dutch political scientist.

Joop van den Berg, formerly of Leiden University, writes that the traditional social democratic alliance, between workers and the intellectual middle class, is breaking down. The former are defecting to either populists on the far left (Die Linke in Germany, Podemos in Spain) or nationalists on the right (the Danish People’s Party, the Dutch Freedom Party). The latter are switching to Greens or centrist liberals in the middle.

One way to stem this, Van den Berg proposes, would be for social democrats to ally permanently with the other parties of the left. Then they would no longer need to fight on two fronts at once. Read more

Löfven Despairs at Swedes’ Gloom

Swedish prime minister Stefan Löfven gives a speech in Stockholm, December 19, 2015
Swedish prime minister Stefan Löfven gives a speech in Stockholm, December 19, 2015 (Socialdemokraterna/Victor Svedberg)

Their economy is growing 4.5 percent this year and unemployment has fallen to its lowest level since the financial crisis yet Swedes are acting “as if everything is going in the wrong direction,” complains their prime minister, Stefan Löfven.

In an interview with the Financial Times, the Social Democrat insists that “all the numbers are going in the right direction, but the picture the public have is that the country is now going in the wrong direction.”

Recent surveys put his party and its left-wing allies almost 5 percentage points behind the right-wing opposition. Read more

Germany, Sweden Urge Measures to Slow Immigration

German lawmaker Ole Schröder, Swedish and Danish migration ministers Morgan Johansson and Inger Støjberg and European Commissioner Dimitris Avramopoulos answer questions from reporters in Brussels, January 6
German lawmaker Ole Schröder, Swedish and Danish migration ministers Morgan Johansson and Inger Støjberg and European Commissioner Dimitris Avramopoulos answer questions from reporters in Brussels, January 6 (European Commission)

Germany and Sweden called for measures to reduce immigration from the Middle East and North Africa into Europe on Wednesday days after the two reimposed border controls.

Morgan Johansson, the Swedish migration minister, urged other European Union countries to help “slow the highway that has now been introduced right through Europe via Greece, the Balkans, Austria, Germany and then up to the northern countries.”

Johansson said some 115,000 people have applied for asylum in his country in the last four months alone.

Last year, Sweden registered 160,000 asylum seekers, the highest per-capita ratio in the EU.

Speaking alongside Johansson in Brussels, Ole Schröder, a lawmaker for Germany’s ruling conservative party, said, “Our problem at the moment in Europe is that we do not have the functional border control system, especially at the Greek-Turkey border.”

Germany has seen the second-highest immigration rate in Europe relative to its population with up to a million people seeking asylum there last year. Read more

Swedish Right Pulls Out of Budget Deal with Löfven

Swedish prime minister Stefan Löfven gives a speech in Stockholm, September 6
Swedish prime minister Stefan Löfven gives a speech in Stockholm, September 6 (Socialdemokraterna)

Sweden’s right-wing parties pulled out of a budget deal with the ruling Social Democrats on Friday, depriving Prime Minister Stefan Löfven of a majority and raising the specter of early elections.

Christian Democrat members, whose party is the smallest in the opposition Alliance, voted at a conference on Friday to abandon the pact with Löfven. The other conservative parties that most recently ruled Sweden from 2006 to 2014 followed suit this weekend.

They had propped up Löfven’s minority government since late last year when it failed to enact a budget of its own. Read more