Sweden Changes its Colour but not its Track

15/09/2014

Mauricio Rojas, Former MP of the Parliament of Sweden

The Swedish elections have produced three important results. The first one refers to the defeat of the government which, for eight years, has been led by the Conservatives with Fredrik Reinfeldt as the leader, passing the responsibility to form government to the Social Democrats. It is a paradoxical defeat since Sweden has been the most successful European country in overcoming the 2008-2009 crisis and, since then, it has exhibited the most dynamic growth among developed countries. This positive economic performance has been recognised by the voters, as the exit polls show. In them, the Conservatives are the first preference by a wide margin when it comes to economic management ability. The interpretation of this fact, never seen in Swedish politics, is that precisely their strength made the economic issue irrelevant, which was the great card played by the Conservatives and the centre-right alliance that formed government with them. In short, the conservative success would be the reason of its defeat.

The second interesting result refers to the characteristics of the Social-Democrat victory. It won with 31.2% of the votes, that is, with barely a marginal increase from the 2010 election (30.9%), which was the worst for this party since the introduction of the universal suffrage. It is therefore a weak social-Democracy and it will need broad alliances in order to form a stable government. At the same time, the Left Party (former Communist Party) stagnates at a very low level (5. 7%), which is very significant because it is the only party that frontally questioned the new Swedish welfare system, based on citizen free choice and a wide public-private cooperation. Therefore, the triumphant Social Democrat leader, Stefan Löfven, has clearly stated his intention to seek alliances toward the centre right, breaking the traditional division of the Swedish political spectrum in two opposing blocs. This means that, essentially, continuity will be rule in Sweden's development.

The third relevant fact is the breakthrough of the Swedish Democrats (Sverigedemokrater), a populist anti-immigration party which goes from 5.7% to 12.9% of the votes, winning a strong position in the Swedish parliament as a holder of the balance of power. This is a general European trend, but also a reflection of the serious segregation problems which last year led to a series of urban riots unprecedented in Sweden. This coincides with a record flow of Middle East refugees, which will only aggravate the situation. A very serious problem against which no party has offered a convincing solution. If this does not change radically, there may come a day when the Swedish Democrats become the largest party in Sweden.