After the general election on 9 September, Sweden seems to have split in half, with Sverigedemokraterna (Sweden Democrats), nestling ominously in the middle. The party of Prime Minister Stefan Löfven, Sosialdemokraterna (The Social Democrats), remained the country’s biggest party with 144 mandates, while the four centre-right parties making up the opposition, dubbed Alliansen (The Alliance), got more votes put together and achieved 143 mandates. It is therefore impossible to announce a clear winner – or an obvious future coalition.
The Social Democrats achieved their worst election result in almost a century with 28.4%. One of the parties in The Alliance, right-leaning Moderaterna (The Moderates), remains second biggest at 19.8%. Neither The Alliance nor the political left has the majority needed to form a new government. The party leaders in The Alliance have previously called for Löfven’s resignation but still agreed to negotiate with him about a possible coalition. This can be viewed as a tactical move in order to give Sweden Democrats as little power as possible.
Sweden Democrats, or SD, was founded in 1988 by members of various nationalist groups but remained a marginal political presence until 2005 when Jimmie Åkesson was elected leader.
Whilst being relatively centrist on socio-economic topics, SD is critical of the EU and opposes multiculturalism.
Despite having been consistently kept out in the cold by every other established political party, SD soared on the pre-election polls. This was mainly because of their tough stance on immigration, a topic that has haunted Sweden for decades and dominated the public debate in Europe since the beginning of the refugee crisis in 2015.
Simon Hix, a professor at the London School of Economics, recently told the Guardian that he saw the rise of SD as proof of “party system fragmentation” and how established political parties are losing ground. This pattern can be traced all over Europe, from the French National Rally to the Danish People’s Party and the Five Star Movement in Italy.
Meanwhile, the established yet declining parties try to remain in power. During Löfven’s speech on election night he called for the end of “bloc-politics;” it looks like Sweden’s political left and right would rather reach out across political blocs than rely on Sweden Democrats to help secure a majority.
It remains to be seen what form the new government will take in what has previously been deemed “Europe’s most stable political order.”