Far-right gains throw Swedish government into turmoil

Sweden faced political turmoil last night following shock general election gains by the country's main far-right party which appeared to have denied the governing centre-right coalition an overall majority.

The virulently anti-immigration Sweden Democrats won their first seats to Sweden's parliament with 20 of the 349 contested in Sunday's general election.

The Sweden Democrats' rise prompted spontaneous protests in Stockholm and other major cities in Sweden. Many said they were dismayed by such a result in a country which had always prided itself on tolerance.

Sweden's governing centre-right four-party Alliance for Sweden fell short of a majority after polling 172 seats, but the Prime Minister, Frederik Reinfeldt, who leads the alliance, ruled out any co-operation with the Sweden Democrats.

The Sweden Democrats ran a campaign calling for drastic reductions in Swedish immigration under the slogan "Keep Sweden Swedish". Its politicians argue that Third World immigrants in Sweden are mainly responsible for crime. The party wants total assimilation of foreigners rather than integration, which it sees as a halfway measure.

Jimmie Akesson, the party's youthful leader, said the Sweden Democrats would use their surprise gains to make themselves heard, as they had not been invited to attend official pre-election debates. "We have in many ways been treated as anything but a political party in this election," he said.

The Sweden Democrats have discarded an earlier image as a far right skinhead-style political organisation under Mr Akesson's leadership and presented themselves as respectable, suit-wearing, middle-class Swedes for their election campaign.

"We are not racists, we just want to enable immigrants to become Swedes through assimilation. Integration does not work," Mr Akesson insisted in interviews after his party's result became known.

Immigrants make up 14 per cent of Sweden's 9.4 million population.

Mr Reinfeldt said he would not rule out working together with Sweden's Greens and Social Democrats who form the main opposition block in parliament.

The deputy leader of the Greens, Maria Wetterstrand, appeared to rule out the idea of co-operation with Mr Reinfeldt's alliance. She said his plans to extend the use of nuclear power in Sweden through construction of several new atomic power stations directly contradicted her own party's aims and political convictions.

She said her alliance with the Social Democrats, which won 157 seats, remained intact.

Mona Sahlin, the leader of the Social Democrats, conceded defeat and admitted that her party had not been able to win back the confidence of voters. Her party is credited with setting up the country's generous welfare state system over the past 65 years.

"The Alliance is the biggest majority group. It is now up to Mr Reinfeldt to find out how to rule Sweden without letting the Sweden Democrats win political influence," she insisted.

One Swedish Muslim woman, interviewed in Stockholm, admitted she was shocked at the result. "I am very unhappy with the result. Times ahead do not look good for Muslims," she said.

Susanne Lindeskog, from the southern city of Malmo, which has a large immigrant population, said: "It is frightening that 8 per cent of Swedes have voted for a party with racist roots. I am ashamed to be Swedish," she added.

Jimmie Akesson: Plodding and politically nondescript

The 31-year-old took over the Sweden Democrats in 2005 and since then has tried to tone down its extremist elements to attract new supporters outside of its white, working-class core.

Plodding and uncharismatic – he was described by one Swedish anti-fascist organisation of speaking like the CEO of a small company reporting its annual results – Akesson has nonetheless made his party more electable. He did so by exploiting the vacuum left by the two main political blocs which both support Sweden's largely liberal immigration policy. "This guy is politically nondescript," said Graeme Atkinson, the European editor of Searchlight, an anti-fascist magazine.

University-educated Akesson emerged as leader after a hard-fought contest. He then sought to have the more thuggish elements of the party, founded in 1988, thrown out. He has largely escaped controversy. However, he was recorded in an undercover operation by journalists at a gathering where right-wingers sang racist songs as well as one about the murder of former Swedish prime minister Olof Palme.

Start your day with The Independent, sign up for daily news emails
ebooks
ebooksA special investigation by Andy McSmith
Life and Style
Powdered colors are displayed for sale at a market ahead of the Holi festival in Bhopal, India
techHere's what you need to know about the riotous occasion
Arts and Entertainment
Larry David and Rosie Perez in ‘Fish in the Dark’
theatreReview: Had Fish in the Dark been penned by a civilian it would have barely got a reading, let alone £10m advance sales
News
Details of the self-cleaning coating were published last night in the journal Science
science
News
Approved Food sell products past their sell-by dates at discounted prices
i100
News
Life-changing: Simone de Beauvoir in 1947, two years before she wrote 'The Second Sex', credited as the starting point of second wave feminism
peopleHer seminal feminist polemic, The Second Sex, has been published in short-form to mark International Women's Day
Latest stories from i100
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
Independent Dating
and  

By clicking 'Search' you
are agreeing to our
Terms of Use.

iJobs Job Widget
iJobs General

Recruitment Genius: Finance Assistant / Credit Controller

£16000 - £18000 per annum: Recruitment Genius: They are an award-winning digit...

Ashdown Group: Senior VMware Platform Engineer - VMware / SAN / Tier3 DC

£45000 - £55000 per annum + benefits: Ashdown Group: Senior VMware Platform En...

Recruitment Genius: Purchasing Assistant

£10000 - £16000 per annum: Recruitment Genius: A distributor of specialist ele...

Recruitment Genius: Sales Ledger Assistant

£17000 - £19000 per annum: Recruitment Genius: A distributor of specialist ele...

Day In a Page

Homeless Veterans campaign: Donations hit record-breaking £1m target after £300,000 gift from Lloyds Bank

Homeless Veterans campaign

Donations hit record-breaking £1m target after huge gift from Lloyds Bank
Flight MH370 a year on: Lost without a trace – but the search goes on

Lost without a trace

But, a year on, the search continues for Flight MH370
Germany's spymasters left red-faced after thieves break into brand new secret service HQ and steal taps

Germany's spy HQ springs a leak

Thieves break into new €1.5bn complex... to steal taps
International Women's Day 2015: Celebrating the whirlwind wit of Simone de Beauvoir

Whirlwind wit of Simone de Beauvoir

Simone de Beauvoir's seminal feminist polemic, 'The Second Sex', has been published in short-form for International Women's Day
Mark Zuckerberg’s hiring policy might suit him – but it wouldn’t work for me

Mark Zuckerberg’s hiring policy might suit him – but it wouldn’t work for me

Why would I want to employ someone I’d be happy to have as my boss, asks Simon Kelner
Confessions of a planespotter: With three Britons under arrest in the UAE, the perils have never been more apparent

Confessions of a planespotter

With three Britons under arrest in the UAE, the perils have never been more apparent. Sam Masters explains the appeal
Russia's gulag museum 'makes no mention' of Stalin's atrocities

Russia's gulag museum

Ministry of Culture-run site 'makes no mention' of Stalin's atrocities
The big fresh food con: Alarming truth behind the chocolate muffin that won't decay

The big fresh food con

Joanna Blythman reveals the alarming truth behind the chocolate muffin that won't decay
Virginia Ironside was my landlady: What is it like to live with an agony aunt on call 24/7?

Virginia Ironside was my landlady

Tim Willis reveals what it's like to live with an agony aunt on call 24/7
Paris Fashion Week 2015: The wit and wisdom of Manish Arora's exercise in high camp

Paris Fashion Week 2015

The wit and wisdom of Manish Arora's exercise in high camp
8 best workout DVDs

8 best workout DVDs

If your 'New Year new you' regime hasn’t lasted beyond February, why not try working out from home?
Paul Scholes column: I don't believe Jonny Evans was spitting at Papiss Cissé. It was a reflex. But what the Newcastle striker did next was horrible

Paul Scholes column

I don't believe Evans was spitting at Cissé. It was a reflex. But what the Newcastle striker did next was horrible
Miguel Layun interview: From the Azteca to Vicarage Road with a million followers

From the Azteca to Vicarage Road with a million followers

Miguel Layun is a star in Mexico where he was criticised for leaving to join Watford. But he says he sees the bigger picture
Frank Warren column: Amir Khan ready to meet winner of Floyd Mayweather v Manny Pacquiao

Khan ready to meet winner of Mayweather v Pacquiao

The Bolton fighter is unlikely to take on Kell Brook with two superstar opponents on the horizon, says Frank Warren
War with Isis: Iraq's government fights to win back Tikrit from militants - but then what?

Baghdad fights to win back Tikrit from Isis – but then what?

Patrick Cockburn reports from Kirkuk on a conflict which sectarianism has made intractable