“I’m quite worried about the rise of far-right parties in this election,” Nathalie Johansson, 35, an IT consultant in Stockholm, told DW. “If you had asked me six months ago what worries me most about the upcoming elections, I would have said how governments intend to tackle climate change. But what worries me right now is the power of the far right.”

According to information from the two opinion research institutes “Swedish Institute for Opinion Surveys” (Sifo) and “PolitPro” from September 9, the Social Democrats, who have been in power since 2014, are at 29 percent. The Sweden Democrats have risen to become the second strongest political force with around 20 percent in the polls.

The growing popularity of the Sweden Democrats, founded in 1988 and sitting in parliament since 2010, has stirred up the election campaign. For the first time in Sweden, conservative, liberal and Christian democratic parties appear ready to rule with the support of right-wing populists.

For Jacob Funk Kirkegaard, Senior Fellow at the German Marshall Fund of the United States, the scenario is less dramatic than it first appears. “The real risk is that Sweden could be left without a government for an extended period of time and even announce new elections if either the left or the right parties fail to win a majority, similar to 2018,” he told DW.

This year’s elections come at a critical time. Like the rest of Europe, Sweden is also affected by the consequences of the Ukraine war and is looking for a way out of the energy crisis and the problem of rising inflation.

For analyst Kirkegaard it is clear that these aspects will play a decisive role in the election: “Voters will take into account rising inflation and the need to potentially spend billions to save local utilities.”

Second, many people are also concerned about the level of crime in the country. “Sweden has entered the list of countries with the highest crime rates in Europe in recent years,” Kirkegaard said. Gang wars in deprived areas have spread to many urban areas.

For example, the Institute for Society, Opinion and Media at the University of Gothenburg (SOM Institute) released a report ahead of the elections showing that since the polls began, 41 percent of Swedish voters say crime is their top concern.

Swedish Prime Minister Magdalena Andersson had already admitted deficits at a press conference in April. The lack of integration of immigrants over the past 20 years has led to gang violence and crime in the country.

“We had immigration, but the integration of the immigrant population was insufficient,” she said in April. There were insufficient funds for social programs and police equipment.

The election campaign strategy of the Sweden Democrats starts exactly at this point. “Many Swedes are fed up with immigration, crime and electricity prices,” said party leader Jimmie Akesson at a campaign rally in mid-August.

So far, Sweden has been one of the most open and immigration-friendly countries in Europe. In 2015, at the height of the refugee crisis in Europe, the country took in 163,000 refugees.

According to Kirkegaard, however, there could be further restrictions after this election. He refers to the restrictive immigration policy in neighboring Denmark, which is governed by social democracy.

Jonna Mannberg, CEO of Refugees Welcome Stockholm, a volunteer organization working with refugees in Sweden, expressed concern at the rhetoric of Swedish politicians.

“We have seen elected officials and political parties use populist language in this election to paint a picture of systemic failures that they believe are largely related to hosting the many refugees,” she told DW. This is far from the truth.

Mannberg explained that asylum seekers are increasingly ostracized in society and some of them have migrated to other countries due to Sweden’s stricter immigration policy. “This election, whatever the outcome, will likely further curtail the rights of refugees,” she predicts.

Another drastic change concerns foreign policy. Earlier this year, Sweden gave up its 200-year military neutrality and applied to join NATO. This change of course met with some uneasiness among some young people in particular.

For Kirkegaard, however, joining NATO is not an election campaign issue. “The country is already firmly tied to Ukraine, and joining NATO was supported by all centrist parties and a large majority of Swedes,” he explains.

The Swedish politician and journalist Alice Bah Kuhnke takes a similar view. “I’ve been campaigning across the country for the past few weeks and have seen that most voters have digested the fact that Sweden is applying for NATO membership.”

The politician was Sweden’s culture and democracy minister from 2014 to 2019. She has been a member of the Greens group in the European Parliament since 2019. “I don’t think Sweden’s entry into NATO will affect the elections,” she says.

The article was adapted from English by Astrid Prange de Oliveira.

Author: Priyanka Shankar

Retail giant Edeka has won in court against beverage giant Coca-Cola. The group now has to deliver its products again. But a new dispute is already programmed.

The passengers of a Lufthansa flight from Munich to Sylt experienced a moment of shock on Friday evening. The machine had to land in Hamburg. The reason was problems with the hydraulic system.

The new citizens’ income should amount to 502 euros. This was reported by the editorial network Germany (RND) on the basis of a draft by the ministry. This means that the previous Hartz IV rate should be 50 euros higher.

The original of this post “Is the country drifting to the right?” comes from Deutsche Welle.