October 3, 2022
Sweden’s centre-right leaders emerge as winners and losers

Sweden’s left-wing Social Democrats won more seats than any other party in this week’s elections, but its popular leader Magdalena Andersen was forced to submit her resignation as prime minister on Thursday.

Instead, Ulf Christerson of the centre-right moderates will get his first chance to form a new government – ​​the first right-wing government in the Nordic country in eight years – on the back of increased support for the far-right Sweden Democrats.

Kristerson, who faces an in-tre that includes an application not only to NATO but also for the upcoming EU presidency, has to find common ground with a loose coalition including the resurgent Swedish Democrats. The bloc defeated Anderson’s leftist coalition with a three-seat majority in the final results confirmed on Thursday.

Christerson’s party lost ground, falling to third place with 19.1 percent of the vote for the first time since 1976. The Democrats of Sweden came second with 20.5 percent, becoming the most successful anti-immigration party in Europe.

“The result has weakened Ulf Christerson. Even if the Sweden Democrats scored just 1 percent higher, symbolically it means a lot,” said Ann-Katherine Junger, an expert on radical right-wing parties at Södertorn University.

Swedish Democrat leader Jimmy Axon clapped his supporters near Stockholm on Sunday
Swedish Democrat leader Jimmy Axon clapped his supporters near Stockholm on Sunday © Stefan Jrvang/TT News Agency/AP

Most political scientists expect the Nationalists to gain national influence not by first entering government, but by bargaining hard for the right-wing coalition to become a support party in parliament.

But in giving some level of influence to the Sweden Democrats, a party that has roots in the neo-Nazi movement, Kristerson is following in the footsteps of recent right-wing leaders in Norway, Finland and Denmark, all of whom are either nationalist groups in government or of right-wing governments. as supporting parties.

He will now begin talks with his close allies the Christian Democrats and the Liberals, along with the Sweden Democrats, to form a coalition in the coming weeks.

Swedish Defense University associate professor Jenny Madstam said the Sweden Democrats would try to “make the most of the position as the second largest party”, complicating Kristerson’s affairs.

“It will be difficult,” she said. “The Swedish Democrats are in a position to put enormous pressure on Kristerson in terms of reforms, but also in terms of positions. Most likely they want to stay out of government, but they get a lot of reforms in return.”

After the last elections in 2018, it took a record 134 days for the Social Democrats to patch together a struggling government for a full term. The left-wing government was twice forced to rule with a right-wing budget and regularly won the vote by the narrowest margin.

Right-wing officials and commentators say they expect government formation to be easier this time, as the four parties involved have agreed on several policies and campaigned together. The biggest obstacle is the mutual distrust between the Liberals and the Democrats of Sweden.

“I don’t think the problem is huge. The Left wants to portray it as two parties because they hate each other because they want us to fail,” said right-wing author and commentator Carolyn Dahlman. “But when you look at the specific topics that this government has to solve on crime, immigration and the economy, they have a similar situation.”

A right-wing government may be taking a tougher approach to law and order, after Sweden went from the lowest level of fatal shootings in Europe to the highest level in a decade. It is also likely to take an overly restrictive approach on immigration, which Sweden’s Democrats have long blamed for a rise in gang crime. In addition, it will support the revival of nuclear power in Sweden to boost its electricity generation.

But there are differences between the parties on issues such as unemployment benefits – Christerson favors cuts while the more populist Sweden Democrats want to promote some of the measures – as well as cultural issues such as public service television.

Dahlman said he expected a “bump in the road” due to the coalition’s small majority, but that all right-wing parties should understand that, if they failed to agree, Andersen would return as prime minister.

Ultimately, Sweden’s Democrats need to decide what they want to do, political experts say. On Sunday’s election night, four senior party members told the Financial Times that they thought the party should enter government, with one even suggesting they may seek the prime minister’s post. But he has reduced his rhetoric to suggest that he is open to all possibilities.

“Sweden Democrats don’t want responsibility. They want to sit on the sidelines and be able to complain and carry on with their politics. If they will be part of the government, people will say they are responsible for things, and it’s up to them.” Inconvenient,” Dahlman said.

For now, Kristerson, both the winners and losers in these elections, is talking about bringing people together and forming a government for all of Sweden. But first he has to form the government and handle the ardent nationalist party.

“Our voters are sending a signal that they cannot be ignored,” said Sweden’s Democrat MP Aron Emilson. “They expect us to have an impact on immigration, integration, law and order, energy matters.”

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