The increase of the populist, anti-immigrant, far-right Sweden democracy party is increasing the erosion of sweden exceptionalism together we recognize it. Today, the central tenets of sweden politics, culture and identity have actually never been much more threatened.

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With swedish politicians beginning to prepare because that the 2022 basic election, the spectre the populism is collection to difficulty Sweden’s idyllic reputation whilst haunting its politics.

Sweden’s identity situation over its renowned internationalism is place the country at a turning point. The reordering the Sweden’s priorities and domestic plans — guided by a potent wave of populism and also nativism — has contributed to a wider reassessment that the nation’s when exceptional standing with its famously generosity welfare state and also asylum search policies.

That the climb of the anti-immigrant Sweden democracy marks a sharp aberration from the past is clear, however the results of the shift are less so. Grappling through the utopian reputation Sweden has on the human being stage — and also the complications the ensue native rising economic inequality and unemployment — will certainly be amongst the most far-reaching domestic policy disputes of the next general election campaign.

The rise of the Swedish far Right

In the last decade, anti-immigrant and also nationalist sentiments throughout Swedish culture have discovered their spokesperson in Jimmie Åkesson, leader that the Sweden Democrats. The party, which was lengthy seen as a marginal motion of militant skinheads in black color uniforms, currently holds virtually 18% of seats in the Riksdag, Sweden’s Parliament.

Åkesson insists the motion has shed its fascist, white supremacist past. Due to the fact that rising to power in 2005, he has actually indeed acquired rid the the party’s neo-Nazi hard liners that the 1980s whilst moderating the group’s platform and polishing that ethos. He has successfully turned it into a law-and-order party with traditional family values that aims to protect Swedes’ hard-earned pension accumulation from allegedly lazy, unintegrated immigrants living top top benefits. Due to the fact that 2012, Åkesson has likewise expelled end 100 extremist members, despite the constant news around some Sweden Democrats’ neo-Nazi ties says the party’s xenophobic rhetoric may not have fully vanished.

However, the group’s success is not simply sustained by nativist sentiments: their leader has masterfully associated apprehension about open boundaries with concerns over the country’s lover welfare state. For this reason far, the tactic has actually worked.


Since the 2018 basic election the Sweden democracy have become Sweden’s third largest party, securing 17.5% that the national vote and also 62 seat in Parliament. If the much right obtained ground, assistance for the social Democrats — the center-left party that had dominated Swedish national politics for a century — fell to an unmatched 28.3% (its shortest level of support because 1911), whilst the main opposition, the Moderates, shed an also greater re-publishing of the vote.

Åkesson’s unmatched gains caused a hung parliament and led come a loose, unstable coalition that three various centre-left parties right into one ‘big tent’ party. In the end, the coalition the the social Democrats, the green Party and the Left party barely scraped by with a one chair majority.

Despite their growing power at the apex of swedish politics, the Sweden Democrats have actually remained diverted in the Riksdag due to the fact that of various other parties’ refusal to cooperate with them in irradiate of their neo-Nazi past.

However, that changed last year once Ebba Busch, leader that the centre-right Christian Democrats, signalled her willingness to negotiate v Åkesson in an unprecedented move for Swedish politics. Sweden is, after all, renowned for its for free culture, durable welfare state, and also its unique background of welcoming refugees from everywhere the world.

With many now fearing that Sweden’s sources are being extended by immigrants, it appears that the country’s for sure haven status, its culture of tolerance, and its core identity may be starting to show some cracks.

Stockholm Syndrome

The 2015 Syrian refugee crisis helped the Sweden Democrats acquire momentum: it caused a rare immigration debate among Swedes and saw one unprepared Sweden attempting to handle an unprecedented influx that asylum seekers.

That year, Sweden accepted 163,000 refugees and offered them and their immediate household permanent residency. The number of foreign-born Swedish residents rose to 17%, making the Scandinavian country the biggest per capita receiver of refugees in Europe.

While countless citizens invited the immigrants, the federal government was pressured right into reversing that is asylum policy by the Right. By loss of the year, the Islamic State Paris attacks forced the federal government to succumb come public concerns and also the Sweden Democrats’ requests and it deported part refugees.

Crucially, this shifts in windy opinion have happened versus the backdrop of far-ranging economic challenges.

Sweden emerged its open up refugee policies in the 1970s, once it to be the fourth-richest country in the people with basically no unemployment. This duration also coincided with the increase of internationalized human rights and with positive outlook for the guarantees of globalisation, including democratization, equality and solidarity. Sweden was eager to position itself together a uniquely multicultural utopia v the expect of generosity and also tolerance because that refugees fleeing autocracies.

However, despite its economy largely recovered native the 2008 financial crisis, newly the government had to make some cuts to its welfare system, which the Right mostly blamed on immigrants.

The inexplicable influx the migrants from north Africa and also the Middle east has additionally increased competition because that employment and also housing, while the saturation that the low-skilled tasks sector — which many refugees generally gravitate in the direction of — has actually caused a variety of them to live on welfare.

Sweden’s earnings inequality is also on the rise, while its immigrant neighborhoods have end up being increasingly segregated and also ravaged by violent riots and street gangs —a usual byproduct of unemployment, poverty, and also police ineffectiveness.

Lastly, unemployment has worked out at a stubborn 8% — an especially high number because that Nordic criter — despite that number doubles in immigrant neighborhoods.

As such, it shows up that the social contract the Sweden’s welfare model relied on is starting to undertake out, and (to some) the time for gift generous is up.

It is unsurprising, then, the the Sweden Democrats have actually been quick to tap into citizens’ grievances and also concerns over open borders, depicting themselves as the only credible voice ~ above the problem while various other parties neglect Sweden’s integration problem.

The finish of sweden Exceptionalism?

A current upsurge in gang violence focused in Sweden’s extremely segregated immigrant neighborhoods has once again placed the open borders debate at the center of sweden politics.

About 50% that Swedish gang members space foreign-born and also 85% have actually an immigrant background native majority-Muslim countries such together Somalia, Iraq, Syria and Turkey. The overwhelming bulk of corridor members are likewise unemployed, live ~ above benefits and also feel left behind through the sweden government.

As a result, analysts are pointing to indications of a concerning “Swedish paradox” by which there are two separate demographic realities in the country: the idealized, safe and also wealthy Sweden set against a segregated, poor and violent component of the country.

There is likewise a an ext subtle, cultural divide: the pro-human rights, open-borders, internationalist Sweden matches a more conservative, protectionist one.

In the past, this two human beings rarely came right into contact, but today’s climbing crime rates are urging the federal government to attend to its integration problem. Crucially, to face this issue would likewise mean to inquiry the country’s long-established political and also intellectual identity.

Unsurprisingly, the Sweden Democrats have actually capitalized on the public’s concerns about rising crime rates: they are currently advocating for much more draconian immigration laws, a tougher police presence, and stricter incarceration rules.

Their movement is collection to gain an ext ground and also to affect other parties together well: in fact, a few conservative swedish politicians have already changed their view on immigration, for example by advocating for boundaries on services to migrants.

However, even if it is the Sweden Democrats room actually prepared to take care of the real and also perceived challenges of immigrant to the swedish welfare and also security systems continues to be an open question. Their increase to strength comes, after ~ all, at a time of complex structural transforms they might not be equipped for. Sweden no longer has actually exceptionally low economic inequality, and its publicly spending spending plan is no longer exceptionally high.

For a country that is promptly edging closer come average, the Sweden Democrats’ dream of making Sweden great Again might be crushed by the decrease of sweden exceptionalism.

Finally, the fact that more and an ext people agree v the Sweden Democrats says that a fundamental identity change in the swedish political see is fine underway. As such, Sweden is collection to prosper increasingly polarized, when its core identity, values and idyllic reputation will proceed to it is in challenged and contested.

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Sweden’s two main parties will need to rethink the swedish model and the Swedish capacity to incorporate so many refugees. Whether this marks the definitive end of swedish exceptionalism as we know it will just be answer by the results of Sweden’s next basic election in 2022.