Sweden Election Could Tilt Country to the Right

Although they won’t win the overall national election on September 9, the far-right Sweden Democrats can be expected to gain a major voice in any new government coalition.

Stefan Lofven, the current Swedish Prime Minister and head of the Social Democrats, has his job on the line in a tough national election coming up on September 9. Photo: News Oresund, CC

Sweden is about to hold a national election more splintered and divisive than any in recent memory. All projections are that no party is expected to end up with a majority. This means any ruling coalition which comes together to lead afterwards will need to bring together several groups to make a majority.

In the past, political leanings within the country would have brought together a center-left bloc. Today that bloc includes the minority governing Social Democrat and Green parties, along with the Left Party. The polls show this group as controlling about 40 percent of the total vote.

That vote puts the center-left bloc in a slight lead over the center-right Alliance bloc. Unfortunately for the ruling Social Democrats and its current Prime Minister Stefan Lofven, the far-right Sweden Democrats show as picking up around 18 percent of the vote, a surprisingly strong showing in a traditionally more progressive country politically. What that means is even if the center-left bloc pulls in its 40% of the people backing it, the Sweden Democrats have enough strength to demand a key role in the new government. Put together in what is currently a center-right bloc with the Alliance, which also includes the Moderates, Centre, Liberals and Christian Democrats, that gives the Sweden Democrats even more power.

This also means current Prime Minister Stefan Lofven will be pushed out of power when a deal must be made with the Alliance Bloc in order to govern.

The emergence of the Swedish Democrats as a force to be reckoned with in the country represents a major shift in the country’s traditional leanings. The party, which began with a strong connection to white supremacist elements, has views differing strongly from that of the current government. Those views include opposition to the country’s relatively open immigration policies. The party also is against Sweden staying in the European Union.

Already sensing their power in setting policy for the new government, the Sweden Democrats are insistent that they be allowed a major role in shaping the future of the country – and seeing their positions have an impact on the country. As Sweden Democrats leader Jimmie Akesson said in an interview in July, “We are prepared to bring down any government we think is not leading Sweden in the right direction.”

The Sweden Democrats will indeed have an important influence going forward, regardless of the exact outcomes of the elections and deal-making to assemble a government afterwards. The big question for both them and the current ruling minority Social Democrat parties is how much power they will be willing to cede to unite a large enough coalition to rule.

For the Social Democrats, assuming the center-left bloc stays the biggest in the election, the key for them is keeping the Social Democrats and Greens together. Even Prime Minister Stefan Lofven might stay in power if the Sweden Democrats choose not to support the Alliance’s current demands for a new Prime Minister to take power.

Another option is for the Social Democrats to attempt to make a pact with the Sweden Democrats directly, with policy agreements that somehow the right-wing party would accept. That would have the effect of seeing the current center-left bloc’s Centre and Liberal parties jumping out of this particular proposed governing coalition.

The Social Democrats have a further possibility of lining up with the Alliance bloc and the Green Party. That would isolate the Sweden Democrats along with the country’s Left Party, the former Swedish Communist party.

With so many options for power consolidation and the election itself still to happen, the vote on September 9 is definitely only the beginning of major backroom deal-making to stabilize the country under whatever new leadership emerges. The only certainty appears to be that, for the first time in many years, a strong right-wing group will likely emerge with enough power for it to tilt the country’s policies to the right. Whether this means ‘just’ tightening immigration laws or something as drastic as a call for a vote on Sweden’s membership in the European Union, Sweden’s people can expect some major changes from their government starting only months from now. Those changes are also likely to have major implications on the EU as well.