Its name has so far largely been synonymous with tranquil, serene Scandinavian politics. Not anymore! For the first time in almost 60 years, Sweden will hold early elections, on March 22. The anti-immigration Sweden Democrats party is likely to play a central role in that ballot. In early December 2014, an opinion survey showed that support for the nationalist party swelled to almost 18%.
Already in Sweden’s parliamentary elections, in September 2014, this far-right party managed a strong performance, receiving 12.9% of the vote. The Sweden Democrats entered parliament for the first time in 2010, with 5.7% of the vote.
Sweden has the largest number of asylum applications per capita in the European Union. The country currently accepts more than twice as many refugees per capita than any other of the 34 member states of the OECD.
In 2013, violent riots shook Stockholm’s immigrant-heavy suburbs, revealing the Scandinavian country’s struggle to integrate its immigrants into mainstream society. Opinion polls show that Swedes still largely support the idea of living in a country that is open to asylum-seekers, but they are also worried about the economic and cultural impact of increased immigration. Carl Bildt, former Swedish prime minister and foreign affairs minister, explains how his country’s political landscape, immune to the rise of far-right, populist parties until 2010, has begun to change fundamentally.
If the Sweden Democrats hold their place as the country’s third-largest party, they will probably become a key player in the formation of a new government. This would put a far-right party in a position of power in one of Europe’s main economies.