The obsession with the Swedish far right belies a more complex picture of a diverse countryby Dominic Hinde / September 11, 2018 / Leave a comment
If you had read any English language newspaper or website over the past week you could be forgiven for thinking that Sweden was on the cusp of civil war.
Hunting for another round of European populism in response to the refugee crisis, the international press zeroed in on the far-right Sweden Democrats—and built a narrative about a Sweden petrified by immigration and crime.
Sweden’s place as a progressive pin-up means it is its own worst enemy. Whilst people seem quite happy to accept that Britain and the US are dysfunctional and politically chaotic, Sweden is supposed to be a well-ordered paradise—in the same essentialist way that France is supposed to have good food and German trains are supposed to always run on time.
If Sweden isn’t good, then it must be bad—stuck at a crossroads between social democracy and reactionary isolationism.
A mixed picture
The thing about Sweden is that it has never truly been one party’s baby. Not since 1968 has one party had a majority of parliamentary seats.
Historically, Sweden has had two electoral blocs comprised of a number of parties: a left-wing group of Socialists, Social Democrats and Greens, and a Liberal-right bloc.
The story does not end there, though—in the past, the Centre party have supported the Social Democrats in government. The alliance between the Liberals and the Centre, with the conservatives in the Moderates and Christian Democrats, is a marriage of convenience.
Though not on the same scale as the Sweden Democrats, Sweden has also seen this kind of politics before. In the early 1990s a populist-right party called New Democracy made a quick entrance and exit to Swedish politics, providing passive support to a conservative government without doing much else.
What really happened on election night
The grand narrative was this election was supposed to be the far right’s, but with all the votes counted, almost 55 per cent of voters opted for a party that is either left or liberal.
The Left party, led by the likeable and down-to-earth Jonas Sjöstedt, had their best election result for 20 years and have an enthusiastic and mobilised base. What’s more, they sense that this is not their peak.
Even the Greens, who some thought would be pushed…