« Make Sweden great again. » The far right at the dawn of power – POLITICO

HELSINGBORG, Sweden — Cheers and applause greeted the far-right leader of the Swedish Democrats (SD) Jimmie Åkesson as he addressed a raucous pre-election rally in the southern port city of Helsingborg.

A car slowed down on the nearby thoroughfare and a man shouted « Go Jimmie » through the open driver’s side window so loudly that Åkesson briefly stopped talking and laughed.

« It’s time for the Swedish people to give us a chance, » Åkesson told the crowd of several hundred on a recent weeknight. « It’s time to give us a chance to make Sweden great again. »

Sweden’s September 11 election is shaping up to be a unique vote in the history of the Nordic state. For the first time, a far-right populist party has a realistic chance of wielding serious influence over key policy areas, including immigration and policing.

While similar parties have recently dominated neighboring Finland, Denmark and Estonia, in Sweden the SD has been ostracized by traditional rivals for decades due to its roots among neo-Nazi groups active in the country in the 1980s. 1990.

A recent opinion poll showed support for the SD is on the rise, with around 22% saying they would vote for the party, giving it the second highest support after the ruling Social Democrats at 28%. POLITICO’s poll of polls, which aggregates the polls, has the SD at 20% and the Social Democrats at 29%.

Crucially, SD now also has traditional allies with the potential to dislodge the Social Democrats from power.

Current polls suggest that support for outgoing Prime Minister Magdalena Andersson and her allies is roughly on par with support for a four-party right-wing opposition bloc – including SD – as the final days of the campaign are looming.


For more survey data from across Europe, visit POLITICS Survey of surveys.

If the opposition bloc wins, Åkesson will seek to secure maximum influence, either as leader of a supporting party in a minority government or as a minister in a new, broader coalition.

Åkesson is unlikely to become prime minister if his side wins because the other parties in the opposition bloc – the centre-right Moderates, Christian Democrats and Liberals – have said they support moderate leader Ulf Kristersson for the role, even though his party votes worse than SD.

But the SD’s emergence as a key player in Swedish policy-making would still be a radical shock to the Nordic state’s political system, which over the past century has been largely based on seeking ‘a consensus.

While Sweden’s immigration policies have long been liberal, SD’s platform is said to aim for zero asylum seekers. Sweden’s criminal justice system has traditionally focused on rehabilitation rather than punishment, but SD is calling for longer prison sentences and a broader use of deportation.

“Deport foreign criminals… and no discussion,” reads one of SD’s new election posters.

An impetuous new force

In Helsingborg it was clear that the SD intended to increase the volume of Swedish politics.

Åkesson was three gigs in a series of 13 ‘party’ stops in town squares across Sweden flanked by SD MEP Jessica Stegrud and a small light artist called the Dance Band King who performed as an act warm-up.

A polished performer, Åkesson held the crowd with ease, supporting his party’s main ideas on immigration and sentencing while promising to cut gas prices for good measure.

He painted a picture of a crime-ridden Sweden, where gangs roam the countryside, breaking into houses, stealing from gardens and « taking the engines of people’s boats ». He claimed the Social Democratic government had failed the welfare state and said his party was growing because he dared to speak out against such failures and « call a spade a spade ».

« Sweden has been a great country, a safe country, a prosperous country and it can be all those things again, » he said.

Åkesson’s message struck a chord with core SD voters gathered in Helsingborg, a town in the southern region of Skåne where the party has traditionally done well. A lone rowdy, an older woman with a whistle, was shoved out of the square.

But Åkesson is not so popular everywhere.

On another stop on his celebratory tour, this time to Stockholm’s hipster, central Södermalm district, Åkesson’s speech was met with serious resistance.

As he spoke, dozens of protesters from the Left Party’s youth wing poured into the square and at times drowned Åkesson with loud accusations that he led a party of fascists and racists.

A man in dark glasses arrived early and stood still throughout the event holding an A4 page in a clenched fist with the words ‘Go racist pig in hell’ in red text on a black background.

After his speech in Helsingborg, Åkesson said the outcome of the election would ultimately depend on which side was better at mobilizing their supporters to come out and vote.

The next day, his entourage headed north to the town of Gävle, 700 km away, then another 250 km to the town of Sundsvall in an attempt to get there.

“This election is shaping up to be extremely close,” he said. « It could come down to a few thousand votes. »


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