Voters in Sweden will decide their new leaders on Sunday in a vote that could change the face of the historically left-leaning country. A party with neo-Nazi origins is running second in the polls.
A liberal attitude to refugees in 2015 has led to a backlash from the far right Sweden Democrats, whose leader Jimmie Akesson took an anti-immigration line in the final TV debate of the campaign.
” During the last ten years we’ve one million more people here, due to irresponsible immigration policies,” he said. “Full healthcare on arrival arrive is not reasonable, there should only be acute treatment.”
Annie Loof of the the Centre Party, pointed to the benefits of immigration.
“You can’t talk about care without talking about immigrants,” she said. “How many migrant doctors have saved lives here? Åkesson denigrates people coming from other countries. We couldn´t make it without them.”
The ruling Social Democrats remain ahead in the polls and are favourites to retain power, but if they do come out top on Sunday, they could still face difficulty in forming a ruling coalition.
Sweden votes Sunday in one of its tensest legislative elections in decades. Immigration, and Sweden’s poor handling of the refugee crisis, has led to a surge for the far right. Both the centre-left and the centre-right look to be short of a majority.
Since 2012, Sweden has accepted some 400,000 asylum seekers, with the bulk of them entering the Nordic country of 10 million during the 2015 migrant crisis. Although Sweden has since largely closed its borders and introduced tougher rules on migration, the poor integration of those already living in the country has played right into the hands of the far-right Sweden Democrats, who claim migrants are a threat to the country’s famed welfare model.
In a Friday survey conducted by polling institute Novus for national broadcaster SVT, the Sweden Democrats were predicted to get as much as 19.1 percent of the vote – well above the 12.9 percent the party scored in the last election in 2014. Other pollsters have predicted that the party might even win as much as 20 percent or more – a result which would not only mark an historic gain for the anti-immigrant party with roots in the neo-Nazi movement but also make it the second biggest party in Sweden after the Social Democrats. Many of its supporters consist of former Social Democrats who feel disillusioned, as well as people in rural areas where industries and public services have been cut back.
In the past two elections, support for the Social Democrats, which have dominated Swedish politics since the 1930s, dropped to around 30 percent. According to pollsters, it is now on course to register one of its worst election results ever, dwindling down to somewhere in the mid-20s.
Since 2014, the Social Democrats have been leading a minority government.
Aside from immigration and integration, the issues of healthcare, climate change and education have been hot potatoes during the election campaign.
In an op-ed published in Swedish daily Dagens Nyheter earlier this week, Prime Minister Stefan Lofven urged Swedes to vote for a “stable government … capable of leading Sweden in uncertain times”.
Many political observers suggest the most likely outcome of the elections would be a new Lofven government, but with an even weaker minority than it has now.
A Swedish nationalist party with roots in neo-Nazi movements is set to bring the once-unthinkable idea of leaving the EU onto the country’s agenda, as polls suggest it could win up to a quarter of the vote in elections this weekend.
Sweden Democrats, which blames migrants and refugees for a recent rise in rapes, gun crime and riots, is projected to make unprecedented gains in traditionally liberal Sweden.
Alongside a two-year ban on asylum seekers and major public spending increases on welfare, the party has vowed to deliver a David Cameron-style renegotiation of the country’s relationship with the EU, followed by a referendum.
The radical right wing party’s popularity has soared due to its hardline response to the 2015 refugee crisis, which saw Sweden accept more refugees per capita than any other European country.
It hopes to form a coalition government with the country’s centre-right parties following Sunday’s vote.
A recent investigation by state broadcaster STV, which found that 58 per cent of rapes in the past five years were committed by foreigners, has also seen voters who would usually ignore the party support them.