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Neglect drives far-right vote in rural Sweden

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Neglect drives far-right vote in rural Sweden

Neglect drives far-right vote in rural Sweden
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Småland has an almost mythical place in Sweden’s idea of itself.

For centuries the region was poor, the ground rocky, which makes farming difficult and the people were considered tough and extremely careful with money.

It is also the birthplace of Ikea and the setting for many famous Astrid Lindgren books.

But, as Sweden is about to go to the polls, the region is also becoming known for a new phenomenon. It has become a stronghold for the right-wing Sweden Democrats.

Birger Pettersson has lived in the village of Odenslanda his whole life. He has a farm and a few hundred sheep. He says the support for the right-wing party is something new.

“I was born here and I’ve lived here my whole life. So I was thinking just now about the 2002 election and thought, how many people voted for SD then? Well it was 2 percent,” he says.

The party will get a lot more than that in this year’s election.

Opinion polls put the Sweden Democrats at around 15-20 percent nationally, but here, in the countryside, the party might come out on top of all parties.

So, what has changed?

Pettersson thinks it has to do with a general neglect of the countryside from the established parties.

“There used to be busses coming here. There are no damn busses anymore. There is one a bit away from here but it doesn't even stop everywhere. And maybe it shouldn’t be comfortable to live here. But there has to be something for us.”

At a nearby village, people are gathering at a popular flea market, held every Sunday on a farm.

It is a way for the thrifty people of Småland to find a bargain. The parties have set up their tents to fight for every possible vote.

But there is very little talk about local transportation at the Sweden Democrats campaign tent, instead, the local party chair falls back on the standard talking points.

“There are still a lot of immigrants coming. And we still can’t handle the levels that are already in the country. People are segregated, the hospital waiting times are growing for everyone in Sweden, there are not enough homes and the schools are struggling. So we have to make a temporary end to asylum immigration,” says the SD's regional chair Arvid Nikolausson.

But the Sweden Democrats are no longer the only party favouring tougher rules for migrants.

Both the Social Democratic party and the conservative ‘Moderate’ party, traditionally the two largest parties in Sweden, favour tough migration rules.

But the 2015 influx of migrants is still a major topic, something that is frustrating for the parties that want to move on to other issues.

“There is so much focus on us and them. I think there is really too much focus on that on this issue. We are not talking about problems in schools or with the healthcare. We always end up talking about this. The question of money for migrants and Muslims,” says "Moderat" party MP Katharina Brännström.

But there is another issue that might help the Sweden Democrats.

Sweden, in general, is EU positive, but here in the farming countryside, there is more EU scepticism. Only two parties want Sweden to leave the EU, the left wing party and the Sweden Democrats.

But before that will be an issue, there might be a more pressing situation for the Swedish political system.

“So what might happen, politically, if a lot of people here in Småland and around the country decide to vote for the Sweden Democrats? Well, first of all, it might complicate the formation of a government. The traditional parties, both on the left and some on the center-right, have said that they refuse to work with the Sweden Democrats. But it might also be the case that these traditional coalitions don’t have enough votes to form a government without the Sweden Democrats. So there might be uncertain times ahead after the election here in Swede," reports euronews' Jona Källgren.