Not so liberal after all - Macleans.ca

Not so liberal after all

A far-right party wins 20 seats in Sweden

by
Not so liberal after all

Getty Images

As a wave of anti-immigration sentiment sweeps across Europe, Sweden has seemed relatively immune. The country prides itself on a tolerant attitude, not to mention generous welfare and immigration policies (it brought in some 40,000 refugees in the first four years of the Iraq war). This makes recent election results all the more surprising. On Sept. 19, Swedish voters re-elected the ruling centre-right coalition—but gave the far-right Sweden Democrats 20 seats, inviting them to make their first entry into the national parliament.

Led by Jimmie Åkesson, who’s called Islam the country’s biggest security threat since the Second World War, the Sweden Democrats stirred up controversy throughout the campaign. One advertisement, which showed an elderly white woman trampled by a horde of burka-clad women pushing baby strollers, was banned from television but scored tens of thousands of hits on YouTube. The party wasn’t allowed to join in televised debates, but the country’s attitudes to immigration may now be aligning more closely with some of its neighbours’.

Prime Minister Fredrik Reinfeldt had asked voters for a clear majority. For now, at least, he’ll have to work with the fragile minority government he’s got.