For those of you who haven’t been following Swedish politics lately – and I assume that’s pretty much all of you – we held a general election in September which resulted in a hung parliament. Basically, the governing coalition which is made up of centre-right winged parties lost to the left-winged coalition, but neither coalition succeeded in securing a majority.
How can that be?
See, in addition to the four centre-right winged and the three left-winged parties, we have the Sweden Democrats. This party is not part of any coalition – not by choice, mind you, but because no other party wants anything to do with them. I should add, to avoid any confusion, that the Sweden Democrats have no association whatsoever with the Democratic Party in the US.
In the last election, the right-winged parties together got 40 % of the vote, while the left-winged parties got 44 %. The Sweden Democrats got 13 % (the remaining 3 % were spread among a variety of small parties who failed to win seats in the Swedish parliament).
Since Sweden is a parliamentary democracy, this posed a problem: The Sweden Democrats were made king-makers, and both sides refused to even talk with them. This situation wasn’t new by any means – the Sweden Democrats had become king-makers in the 2010 election as well, after which they decided to passively support the centre-right winged Alliance government despite not getting any concessions. They did vote against the government a few times over the course of the term, but they always supported the government’s budget over the opposition’s alternative, allowing the government to… well, govern.
And that brings us to today’s situation.
The right-winged government resigned on election night, since they were now smaller than the left-winged coalition and to remain in power they would have to officially co-operate with the Sweden Democrats (during 2010-14, they mostly “solved” this by doing deals with one of the left-winged parties). The left-winged parties took over (with the Social Democrats and the Green Party in government, and the Left Party caucusing with them), and of course went straight to work with doing a budget and getting it passed in the parliament.
And that’s where it all went wrong. The Sweden Democrats decided at the last minute (the day before the vote) that they would not support the government’s budget, and instead would support the right-winged coalition’s alternative budget.
So what’s the problem? Can’t the right-winged parties just take over again? In theory Yes, but remember the right-winged parties are smaller than the left-winged, and so would have to rely even more on support from the Sweden Democrats than they did last term (when they were the biggest coalition). And, since they refuse to do that, the Prime Minister felt it necessary to call a snap election to be held on March 22, 2015. He hopes, of course, that the snap election will result in his coalition securing a majority, or failing that, a majority for the right-winged coalition. Anything is better than the current deadlock with SD as kingmakers.
By now you must be asking yourself: Who are these horrible Sweden Democrats that everyone refuses to have anything to do with? They must be like a Neo-Nazi party or something, or at least racist? Certainly they must be anti-democratic and promote violence? And yes, if you ask any of the seven other parties in Sweden’s parliament why they won’t co-operate with the Sweden Democrats, that’s exactly what they will tell you – that the Sweden Democrats is a racist party with roots in the Swedish Neo-Nazi skinhead movement, which doesn’t accept the notion that all humans have equal rights & value. Therefore, they have to be excluded at all costs and not be given any kind of influence whatsoever (and certainly no kingmaker role!).
I would like to offer a different perspective – see, I’m a member of the Sweden Democrats. I voted for them in September, and I intend to vote – and campaign – for them in March next year.
Before you write an angry comment, please hear me out.
Needless to say, I do not agree with the mainstream view of my party. I’m not a racist, and we’re not a racist party. That being said, we are an attractive party for racists – but we’ll get to that in a minute.
The Sweden Democrats is a national conservative party, which basically means that we support a strong national defense, socially conservative values, and limiting immigration.
The last point in particular is controversial, and has often led to us being labeled racist by the mainstream media and establishment parties. However, before you judge us, here are some facts about immigration to Sweden that you should take part of:
- Sweden has a higher refugee population than any other OECD country.
- We are the only country in the world with no numerical limit on the number of refugees that we welcome each year.
- Per capita immigration to Sweden is higher than the per capita immigration to the US during the Great Migration.
- Sweden currently welcomes more refugees from Syria in one week than the US, Canada and Australia does in one year. In fact, last year, Sweden’s government issued a blanket asylum to any refugee fleeing from Syria, even if they can’t prove that their lives are in danger or that they are in fact even from Syria in the first place.
- In total, Sweden grants seven times as many asylum visas as the average European country. We welcome more refugees – in absolute numbers – than the United States, a country that is over 30 times our size.
- We are the only country in the world which does not require prospective citizens to know our native language, Swedish. That’s right – you can become a citizen of Sweden without speaking Swedish.
- While they may not learn Swedish, they are sure to learn their native language alright, since Swedish schools are obligated to provide education in a student’s native language. So a child from Iran may never learn how to speak Swedish (that’s not mandatory after all), but he’ll definitely know how to conjugate Persian verbs.
- Of course, not learning Swedish virtually guarantees unemployment – 50 % of non-European immigrants in Sweden are unemployed. Not only are they unemployed, but many of them also develop hostile views towards Sweden and western values – for example, 40 % of Muslims in Sweden hold anti-Semitic views.
- Estimates of the cost of immigration differ wildly depending on the assumptions made, with low estimates around $12 billion and high estimates closer to $20 bn. Keep in mind that Sweden is a small country – imagine if immigration was costing the US $360-$600 billion every year. Would you want to reduce immigration? That’s how much money Sweden is spending on immigration, adjusted for population size.
What happens to the immigrants who can’t find jobs? Thanks to the Swedish welfare state, they can live in relative comfort, and that’s what a lot of them end up doing, living out their lives tightly packed in their own ghetto areas where no-one ever hears a word of Swedish. And if you ever imply that that is a problem, or that we should focus on assimilating the immigrants we already have before taking in more, the Swedish establishment will be quick to label you a racist. Ask any Sweden Democrat – because that’s what we believe, and that’s what they do.
It should be pointed out in fairness that those who suffer the most from Sweden’s “tolerant” immigration policies are often the immigrants themselves – in particular the children. With both the police and the child protective services horribly overburdened, there is no-one to protect minority girls from being circumcised or from being forced to marry men they do not love. There is no-one to protect minority women from abusive relationships, and there is no-one who stands up for the kids when their parents pull them out of school (something that is very common in the Roma community in particular). In Sweden, cultural tolerance has come to mean supporting the oppressors within each cultural group – we tolerate, or at least do not speak up against immigrant parents who abuse their children because “that’s their culture”. We tolerate Muslim husbands who rape their wives because “that’s just how they are”. We stand by and watch as girls under the age of ten are sold into marriage, because we don’t want to seem “imperialist”. Tell you what; if the choice is between being an imperialist and being a bystander, I’ll be an imperialist any day of the week. I will not be silent. I will not give my passive approval to the oppressors who beat their wives, destroy their children’s futures and who sell their daughters. And that’s why I’m a Sweden Democrat.
How did things get this way? I can see a lot of American conservatives scratching their heads at this, wondering how all parties – even the right-winged ones – could have come to support these kinds of policies. I won’t pretend to know the full answer, but here’s my take it on it:
Sweden has an egalitarian culture. This is the culture that led to the creation of our welfare state, and it is also this culture that opened our borders. An egalitarian culture almost inevitably leads to liberal immigration policies – if the rich have an obligation to share their wealth with the poor, then surely we as a rich country have an obligation to share our wealth with poorer countries and their citizens who come here?
Add to this the fact that welfare states attract immigrants to a much higher degree than non-welfare states (in more conservative states, immigrants have to actually work to earn a living), and you have a recipe for disaster.
There is another factor too that I believe is relatively unique to Sweden: Survivor’s guilt. While Sweden is largely without any historical colonial guilt, we Swedes instead suffer from survivor guilt which stems from having survived both world wars (in fact, Sweden has been at peace since 1814) while our neighbors were attacked (Finland) and occupied (Norway & Denmark). We’ve been lucky, for sure, and this may be the reason why we feel an obligation to help everyone else who weren’t so lucky.
Finally from a strictly political viewpoint, both the left and the right have something to gain from immigration:
To the left, the immigrants are voters. In Muslim areas in Sweden, it is not uncommon to see 80-90 % of the vote go to the left-winged parties. Quite simply, without the minority vote, the Social Democrats would never win another election. This is not entirely dis-similar to the situation in the US with the Afro-American minority and the Democrat party.
To the right, the immigrants are cheap labor and an effective way of undermining the labor unions – something that isn’t exactly easy in a country where about 75 % of the workforce is unionized. This is to some extent true in the US as well – remember that the fiscally conservative Chamber of Commerce have long advocated in favor of amnesty (or, “immigration reform” as they like to call it) for illegal immigrants.
However, even accepting that the establishment parties in Sweden has made a terrible mess of immigration – is there no truth in the criticisms levelled against the Sweden Democrats?
I will readily admit that there are racists within the Sweden Democrat party. This follows from the fact that when you are the only party criticizing immigration, you are bound to attract all kinds of immigration critics, including those who oppose immigration because they hold racist views. However, SD has a zero tolerance policy on racism among party members & representatives, and has always been quick to expel those who express racist views. There will obviously always be the odd racist remaining, but I can honestly say the party is doing its best and is definitely not giving any influence to extremists.
And as for Nazism, people who accuse SD of being Neo-Nazi clearly do not know nor care what the term means: The Sweden Democrats is the only party in Sweden that has consistently stood up for Israel’s right to exist and defend itself, and we are also the only party to stand up for the Jewish minority in Sweden which is being persecuted in cities like Malmö by members of the large Muslim minority (while the authorities stand by and do nothing out of fear of “offending” the Muslims).
It is true that some of the early members of the Sweden Democrat party held extreme views, but quite frankly, that is not relevant to what the party is today. We simply want to bring Sweden’s immigration policies in line with the immigration policies of the rest of the world – what is so extreme about that? We want to move from a model where everyone comes here, to a model where we focus on helping people in their respective countries (and, when that’s not possible, help them settle in closer neighboring countries where they can more easily integrate and later return). This model has been shown to be much more cost efficient, effectively saving more human lives at a lower cost. You may think that human lives cannot be measured in money (and that is of course true in one sense), but at the end of the day, we have to set a budget and make sure we get the most bang for our buck.
Just to be clear, we are not a single-issue party, and there are several reasons why I support the Sweden Democrats that have nothing to do with immigration; for example, we are the only non-socialist party that wants Sweden to leave the European Union, an issue that as regular readers will know is close to my heart.
However, I’ve chosen to focus on immigration in this post as this is the issue that most clearly separates us from the mainstream parties in Sweden, and also because it’s an area where there is a lot of misinformation regarding what we believe & why. Sadly, foreign news media today is mostly copying Swedish news media in labeling our party racist, xenophobic etc., and that is why I felt the need to write this article and provide another side of the story.
I’ll be sure to return to this topic in the future. Thank you for reading.