LANDSKRONA, Sweden — In Sweden’s last general election, a surge in voter support for an anti-immigrant party in this small, southern coastal town shocked a nation long regarded as one of the world’s most liberal.
That party, the Sweden Democrats, now hopes to win its first parliamentary seats in elections on September 19, a radical departure for the country could make forming a new government more difficult for the established parties.
Islam is a particular focus of criticism for the Sweden Democrats, who contend it is not compatible with Swedish values. “We have religious freedom in Sweden and we shall have that in the future. What I am against is the adaptation of society to the Muslim minority,” said party leader Jimmie Akesson.
Center-right Prime Minister Fredrik Reinfeldt this week called the Sweden Democrats “a right-wing, xenophobic populist party” akin to those found in other European countries.
The center-right Danish minority government usually relies on People’s Party support in parliament in return for tougher immigration laws.
The Sweden Democrats polled 2.93 percent nationwide in the 2006 election. Sweden has a threshold of 4 percent of votes to win seats in the 349-member parliament and opinion polls suggest the party has a good shot at clearing the hurdle this time.
That in turn could deprive Reinfeldt, whose center-right coalition has a narrow lead over the opposition, of a majority and leave the far right party holding the balance of power.
See also “‘Dragon Tattoo’ author anti-immigrant prophecy may emerge in Swedish vote”, Bloomberg, 10 September 2010
Update: See “Local Sweden Democrat: ‘ban’ practicing Muslims”,The Local, 11 September 2010