Swedish elections

On September the 9th Swedes will vote in the general election. During July most of them will be on holiday, which means parties are campaigning now and will go full speed in the month leading up to the election.

Some wonder is Sweden about to have its Trump moment? They wonder this because of the sustained success of the right-wing Sweden Democratic Party. In 2002 they received around 1% of the vote but by 2014 at the last election it was 12.9% and they’re currently polling around 20%.

Welfare, education, economy will of course be debated but likely everything will revolve around or be seen through the lens of immigration and integration. Since the last election Sweden will have received another 250-300,000 new immigrants looking to make a new life here. As The Economist says, “In 2015 no European country took in more asylum-seekers, relative to its population, than Sweden.”

So jobs, stresses and strains on health, education, and crime are likely all to be seen as a comment on immigration policy.

Tino Sanandaji writes

At the core of it, shifting Swedish politics is simple, and has little to do with either deindustrialisation, racist deplorables or bitter clingers – however emotionally appealing it is for progressives to blame these factors. Sweden’s highly generous refugee policy never had majority support among voters, including Social Democratic voters. Blue-collar voters who dared to express even mild protest were bullied and branded as hateful or ignorant by their own party. The only outlet for that built-up resentment has been the Sweden Democrats, and while in the run up to the election the Social Democrats have moved sharply to the Right on migration and crime issues, the mistakes of the past years may prove difficult to repair for this once invincible party.

I think he’s broadly speaking correct in his analysis. There is resentment, there is distrust, there is a sense that Sweden is not the land it once was, and the belief that there is at least a correlation between the creaking education and welfare system and the rise in immigration. Whether they are right or not hardly seems the point, the perception and the belief is there and that is what will matter come polling day.

I’m an immigrant that is a leader in a church full of immigrants. We represent a dozen or more different nations and there are hard-working, law-abiding people who want to contribute positively and constructively to our adopted home and I’d humbly suggest that integration is the real issue. Sweden hasn’t figured out how to quickly get those with skills into the labour market and cannot generate enough jobs for those without skills. Again The Economist:

Of the 92,000 adult asylum-seekers who arrived in 2015, half did not finish high school. Language is often the biggest hurdle. The skills asylum-seekers do have often do not fit local needs.

I know a Swedish man who has built bridges with Turkish asylum seekers, and they are academics, professors, doctors but they cannot find work. Language is often the biggest barrier but also a failure to recognise the skills, training and qualifications from other countries as being sufficient here.

It’s also a problem that will continue for the next decade or more:

Now comes a new difficulty: getting women to work. Those who arrived in 2015-16 were mainly men; their wives are following them. Female refugees typically have the lowest employment rates of any group. “Getting them into work and to leave children at a creche can be a big barrier,” says Caroline Jonsson from the Public Employment Service. “But here in Sweden we don’t have stay-at-home mums.”

This will dominate the election spoken or unspoken. So here is my prediction – the Sweden Democrats will again increase the size of their vote and all other parties will make the same mistake they’ve made before and block them out and refuse to work with them. Which is what they’re currently doing

The current government is a minority coalition of the Social Democrats and Greens. They are supported in parliament by the Left Party. Together, the parties polled 37 percent.The Moderates, Centre, Christian Democrats and Liberals cooperate and will fight the election as a group. They polled 39 percent.
Neither bloc can form a majority government without the Sweden Democrats and both have ruled out a deal with the party,

Why do I say this is a mistake? Because this will only increase the disconnect between Sweden Democrat voters (by this time between one fifth and a quarter of voters) and the ‘elite’. There may even be an attempt at a grand coalition between left and right in order to keep them from playing a decisive role. Yet they are becoming too big to ignore.

None of this is likely to be good for the health of Swedish civil society. It’s unlikely to change much in terms of the economy and general direction. Sweden will remain a secular, broadly prosperous, safe place to live. It will as a result remain a destination for people needing a safe, prosperous place to live. It will also likely increase the divisions growing underneath. I don’t think this election will be the one that will crack those splits wide open but maybe the one four years from now will.

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