Far-right momentum in Sweden bolsters the chances of a grand coalition government

ANDERS WIKLUND / TT SWEDEN OUT

Party leader Jimmie Akesson jubilates at the election night party of the Sweden Democrats after preliminary results in the Swedish general elections in Stockholm, Sweden, 14 September 2014.

Far-right momentum in Sweden bolsters the chances of a grand coalition government


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Polls suggest the far-right is gaining momentum is Sweden, months before the country goes to the polls on September 9.

Balance of power

Polling for the Swedish Democrats over the last two weeks ranges from 20% (Ipsos: 10-21 May) to-23% (YouGov: 11-14 May). That is a 7% leap in the party’s electoral influence since the general elections of 2014 (12,9%). The party with neo-Nazi origins has the typically far-right electoral base of white working-class men, often of social democratic background.

The far-right sees eye to eye with the ruling Social Democrats, whose electoral influence ranges from 23% (YouGov: 11-14 May) to 25% (Sifo: 7-17 May). This is a substantial retreat given the 31% electoral result of September 2014.

As significantly, the Swedish far-right is on course to dominate the right. The centre-right Moderate party is struggling to hold its ground as the leading power of conservative Sweden, with polls estimating its electoral influence as ranging between 18,7% (Sifo: 7-17 May) and 23% (YouGov: 11-14 May). The centre-right is holding its ground, marginally below their 23,3% electoral result of September 2014.

The grand coalition scenario

The current balance of power explains why the Social Democrats are hinting at a possible alliance with the Center right, emulating the example of Germany. However, the centre-right is now the king-maker and can seek the premiership.

The former leader of the Moderate party, Anna Kinberg Batra, proposed a Danish strategy in 2017, contemplating a tactical alliance with the Swedish Democrats that would topple the left wing Swedish government. This choice saw polls for Moderates freefall and she was forced to resign, but the political climate in Sweden is changing.

The ruling Social Democrats have initiated a policy of appeasement as regards to the question that is polarizing political discourse, boosting the far-right in Sweden, namely migration. The government now is advocating a policy that would limit low-skilled migration, even for asylum seekers. In addition, the government has taken tougher measures to restrict family reunification.

This changing immigration policy is often seen as the result of Sweden’s decision to open its doors to 400,000 asylum seekers in 2012, that is, the biggest per capita number of refugees hosted by any EU member state. As late as 2015, Sweden took in 160,000 refugees.

The end of a left-left alliance

This is undermining their alliance with their current junior coalition partners, the Greens, who have seen their electoral influence significantly reduced as compared to the 7% they secured in 2014; currently, the Greens (MP) expect no more than 4% (Ipos 10-21 May; Sifo 7-17), which means that the renewal of a left-left partnership is less likely. However, this also means that Social Democrats are losing votes to the Left of the political spectrum, with the Marxist Left Party (Venstre) seeing its electoral influence surging from 5,7% in 2014 to over 9% (Ipsos: 10-21 May).

The numbers for a left-left alliance do not add up. Combining the vote of the left yields no more than 37%, which would not be enough to form a coalition government. This means the Social Democrats may be forced to turn to the right, preempting a grand right-wing coalition with the far-right as in Denmark.

Currently, the sum of electoral influence of the moderate right as polled by IPSOS on Wednesday amounts to 39% (Moderates, Centre, Christian Democrats and Liberals). That means a big alliance between the centre-left and the centre-right is becoming more likely.

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