As predicted in our recent article (http://socialistnetwork.org/sweden-next-weeks-general-election/#more-858) the Swedish General Election has seen the defeat of the main conservative party that has ruled Sweden for nearly a decade. But the result also saw the continued rise of a more right-wing party, the ironically named Sweden Democrats. As a result it is unsure what form the new government will take.
Here Erik Andersson, an activist in the Left Party and The Socialist Network gives his initial feelings on the election outcome…
The results of the Swedish elections are now in. We had local, regional and parliamentary elections at the same time based on the proportional representation system with a 4% bar to get into parliament.
The outcome was that the right-wing government will step down, but the progressive forces came short of achieving a majority. The two worker parties – the Social Democrats and the Left Party (ex-communist) landed at 31% and 5.7% respectively. Among the progressive forces are also the Green Party (8%) and a new urban middle-class party called Feminist Initiative which at over 3% narrowly failed to reach the threshold for entering parliament.
Growth of the Radical Right
The only big winner in this election was the Sweden Democrats, a party somewhere between the far right and right populism. They won 13% of the vote, a result that has caused consternation among many leftists as well as ordinary decent people.
In the election debates, the Sweden Democrats would let the two other sides talk it out and then come in and say “This lot is wrong in this way and the other lot as well, we are the only alternative to the establishment”. Especially in the last few years, they have established themselves as a centre party on social and economic issues. They officially oppose racism and claim that they are only criticizing “excessive immigration” and “islamic extremism”. Among their main scapegoats are muslims as well as gypsy beggars who have come in the last years from Romania. They also feed on the way companies abuse foreign labour to push down wages and conditions.
But all parties in parliament refuse to cooperate with them, which is unusual in Europe nowadays. So now the social democratic party are trying to form a government which will be dependent on the Green Party at least two right-wing parties. The Left Party offered to enter government under certain conditions in the name of “responsibility”, but were immediately turned down.
While many radical social democrats will miss the Left Party in government, many Left Party members feel that participating in a government dependent on right-wing parties would be destructive for the party. One can also argue that without a left-wing opposition in parliament to such a government, the Sweden Democrats will flourish even more.
While many ordinary social democrats will be relieved that eight years of right-wing rule is over and put trust in their leadership in this difficult situation, more radical members will see the problems of carrying out right-wing polices and opening up for stronger support for the Sweden Democrats.
In general terms, there is a sense of crisis and exasperation within the Left Wing. Issues about how to combat the far right effectively is already being raised, especially now when they have become such a household name. In the Left Party, the election campaign will have to be evaluated and how to act in this difficult situation will come up.
There were also strong regional tendencies in this election. As always, the northern regions were heavily dominated by the workers parties. But the Sweden Democrats are growing everywhere, especially in the countryside.
However, a big shift has taken place in the three biggest cities Stockholm, Göteborg and Malmö. There the left is gaining ground. The most significant shift has taken place in Stockholm, where the right-wing had polled very strongly in 2006 and 2010. Now the right-wing are recording heavy losses, while the Left Party and Feminist Initative have gone from 8.5 to 13.5% support. And, significantly, the Sweden Democrats are still struggling to make an impact, winning just 5% in the city council elections. The progressive forces now have a solid majority in Stockholm. This opens up the perspective of turning Stockholm into a radical example to follow.
During election day, some of our members handed out ballots for the Social Democratic Party and the Left Party respectively, after participating in the election campaign. Now we are inviting people to a branch meeting this Wednesday to discuss the next steps for the labour movement.
We want to be a voice for working class unity in both the Left Party and the Social Democratic Party and help put the vision of a new society at the centre of public debate. To achieve this, there is a need for a broad left within the labour movement which brings together ordinary people to fight for a new society. This is what we are working towards.