Scandinavia – The rise of right-wing populists

A turning point in Sweden? – Since the election on September 11, the right-wing populist Sweden Democrats have been indirectly involved in the middle-class government in the form of toleration.

Electoral success with consequences

They were elected the strongest force in the right-wing bloc with over 20 percent and the second strongest party in parliament after the Social Democrats. Without them, the new three-party government under conservative Prime Minister Ulf Kristersson will not have a majority in parliament.

Since the parliamentary elections on September 11, 2022, not much has happened in Parliament in Stockholm without the party of the right-wing Sweden Democrats.© imago images / imagebroker / imageBROKER / Rolf Fischer via

Our correspondent in Stockholm, Sofie Donges, notes that the Sweden Democrats have already set priorities in the political program, especially in migration and judicial policy: there should be significantly less immigration, if possible no permanent residence permits at all and also significantly harsher penalties.

But she also points out that this development has been around for a long time. “The Sweden Democrats have been in the Riksdag for years and they’ve grown steadily. It’s not the first election where they’ve done well.”

The right as majority procurer

However, it has always been considered a no-go for the other parties to work with the right. They were simply ignored. However, that had changed months before this election. It was said that one could then imagine working together on factual issues. The new government is now forced to do the same.

A man in a suit and tie, glasses and a full beard in front of the European flag.

He is considered to be close to the people and a good speaker: the party leader of the Sweden Democrats, Jimmie Åkesson, who is now having an influence on government action for the first time.© IMAGO / TT / IMAGO / Fredrik Sandberg / TT

The party leader of the Sweden Democrats has been Jimmie Åkesson for many years. According to our correspondent, as leader of the opposition he always had it very easy, promising a lot and shifting the blame to the other parties.

Voting out of frustration and protest

In times of high inflation in Sweden, his party backed the issue of lowering fuel prices in the September elections, which was very well received, as well as the issue of crime. Here, the Sweden Democrats presented themselves as a party that wants to crack down on areas with a high proportion of immigrants.

Pollsters emphasize that the more than 20 percent of Sweden Democrat voters do not automatically sympathize with right-wing ideas. Rather, the electorate is often frustrated by the unfulfilled promises of the previous government.

Right influence on European politics

Sweden took over the presidency of the EU Council on January 1: an opportunity for the traditionally Eurosceptic Sweden Democrats to exert influence here as well: Their foreign policy motto is “Sweden first”, according to Donges.

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The right-wing populists are no longer demanding exit from the European Union, as they used to be. Nevertheless, Prime Minister Kristersson predicts tensions in the EU negotiations on the climate package and the European asylum and migration pact.

One in six votes for the right in Denmark

Sweden’s neighbor Denmark has been governed by a new centrist coalition since December. But the right-wingers were also able to score there. There are now three right-wing populist parties in Copenhagen, which together have received every sixth vote.

Historic success of the right in Denmark. But Social Democratic Prime Minister Mette Frederiksen managed to form a majority government without her.© IMAGO / Le Pictorium / IMAGO / Thibault Savary / Le Pictorium

But unlike in Sweden, the new Danish government under Prime Minister Mette Frederiksen is not dependent on the support of the right on individual issues. That could soften Denmark’s hitherto rigid migration policy and call into question plans to deport asylum seekers to Rwanda again.

An old new story

Right-wing parties in Scandinavia are old and new, says Sofie Donges: “Right-wing populists have been active political designers in Scandinavian parliaments for a good 20 years.” They either supported minority governments, as in Denmark, or they were involved in governments, as in Norway and Finland. Although there were changes, disputes and divisions as a result, the right-wing parties in the far north were always able to recover quickly. In Finland, too, the right-wing populists are currently the second strongest force in parliament.

According to Donges, what unites the right-wing parties in Scandinavia is a certain welfare chauvinism. “They link the issues of the welfare state and migration and say: immigration costs us too much because we don’t have the money for the welfare state. And: immigrants are much more demanding of the welfare state than the locals, and that’s unfair.”

Boilers to Making coffee, the will heated via an open Campfire on Lake at Sunset, Dalarna, Sweden, Europe Copyright: imageBROKER/ alimdix/xArterra ibltsm08888049.jpg Please note the legal provisions of German copyright law regarding the attribution of the photographer's name in the immediate vicinity of the publication

Campfire romance in Sweden: Is the image that Germans have of Scandinavia embellished?© IMAGO / imagebroker / IMAGO / imageBROKER / alimdi / Arterra

The fact that the Scandinavian countries are regarded as the countries with the happiest people in the world and as a hotbed of liberality and tolerance does not contradict the triumph of the right, according to our Sweden correspondent. On the contrary:

You don’t necessarily want to share this happiness that these societies feel, keyword welfare state. That’s why such a strong, caring state and little migration at the same time go together very well for many here. Seen in this light, one can say that these societies have shifted to the right without losing sight of the left.

Sofie Donges, ARD Korrespondentin in Stockholm

Donges also believes that the image of the social and liberal societies that we in Germany have of Scandinavia is “a bit rosy”. Because none of these countries and societies have managed to really slow down the right-wing populists in the last 20 years: neither through ignorance nor through involvement in political work. “You can actually say: The right-wingers have come to stay.”

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