With 95% of the votes counted on Tuesday evening, the party had won a record 20.6%, a result that would make it the second largest party in the Riksdag and its main vote on the right.
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The SD, led by 43-year-old lawmaker Jimmie Akesson, and the Moderate, Christian Democrat and Liberal parties have a 49.7% of the vote, which gives them a slim lead over the outgoing Social Democrats of Prime Minister Magdalena Andersson and their allies from the left, the center and the environment.
If the trend continues, the SD could lead a center-right, possibly one-seat coalition. The final tally is expected on Wednesday. Forming a government could take weeks.
Whatever the outcome, the race has already reshaped political discourse, pushing anti-immigrant and tough-on-crime rhetoric into the political mainstream and deepening fears here about the polarization — or “Americanization” — of politics. Swedish.
The European far right hailed the fine performance of the SD. “All over Europe, people are yearning to take their destiny into their own hands! tweeted Marine Le Pen, the instigator of the French far right.
The outcome could also shape Sweden’s position on the world stage as the country works with partners to respond to the war in Ukraine, seeks NATO membership and assumes the rotating presidency of the European Union in 2023.
“When you cling to power with a seat, it’s a cause of instability,” said Eric Adamson, Stockholm-based project manager at the Atlantic Council’s Northern Europe office. “This may make it more difficult for Sweden to assume a leading role in Northern Europe, in the EU or in NATO.”
The SD won support by taking a tougher stance against crime, particularly Sweden’s rising rates of gun violence, and releasing a 30-point plan to make Sweden’s immigration rules among the most restrictive in the EU. They want to be able to reject asylum seekers based on religion, for example, or on gender or sexual identity.
Ten years ago Sweden’s liberal immigration policies were not a major political issue. The influx of migrants into Europe in 2015 has started to change the game. At that time, Sweden took more than 150,000 asylum seekers, including many new arrivals from Syria, Iraq and Afghanistan. In the years that followed, concerns about immigration and their integration came to the fore.
The Social Democrats say they have reduced asylum claims by making it harder for migrants to enter and apply for the country, stepped up the deportation of asylum seekers whose claims had been rejected, and insisted that Sweden not does not receive more asylum seekers than other EU countries. Party leaders also pledged to dilute the number of “non-Nordic” immigrants in areas where large numbers of immigrants live, promising an end to “Somalitowns”, “Chinatowns” and “Little Italys”.
A few years ago, the rise of the Swedish Democrats would have seemed far-fetched.
Formed in 1988 by right-wing extremists and neo-Nazis, Sweden’s Democrats failed to garner enough votes to win seats in parliament until 2010. extremes of the party.
Other parties and the media kept their distance from the SD, refusing to speak to it or give it a platform. But support for the party has grown rapidly over the past twelve years, culminating in its election on Sunday.
Long boycotted by the mainstream media, the party has developed its own online news sites and is extremely effective on social media such as Facebook and YouTube.
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The Moderates, the largest of the centre-right parties, once shunned the SD. But he ultimately chose to make connections, aiming to upend the political status quo and topple the Social Democrats.
“If you want a government that is not based on the Social Democrats, you have to cooperate with the SD,” said Anders Borg, former finance minister of the moderates. “I don’t see any other viable election strategy other than finding a way to cooperate with them.”
“In Sweden,” he said, “we isolated the SD and yet it rose to 20% as many ordinary voters moved towards it. At the same time, the SD moved from a marginal position to a more ordinary political party.
Whether the SD is now an “ordinary party” is up for debate. Although the party has moved away from its neo-Nazi roots and moved away from some of its earlier positions, its platform remains exclusive.
MEPs want to end extra-European immigration and send Muslims back to their country of origin. A month before the election, an SD spokesman tweeted a photo of a metro train in the blue and yellow colors of the party with the words: “Welcome aboard the repatriation express. Here is a one-way ticket. Next stop, Kabul!
“They don’t include Islam in Sweden,” said Andrej Kokkonen, a professor of politics at the University of Gothenburg who studies anti-immigrant parties. “You can’t be Swedish and Muslim at the same time.”
Sweden’s Democratic voters tend to live in small towns and rural areas, and most are male, according to Ann-Cathrine Jungar, a professor at Sodertorn University who studies radical right-wing populist parties.
They are less educated than the average voter, Jungar said, but many are small entrepreneurs. The party has also drawn votes from the traditional working class and is increasing its support among young people.
“These voters have less faith in the media – they believe there is biased information about their primary immigration issue,” Jungar said. “The SD uses the populist rhetoric that there is a ‘liberal left establishment’, an elite that does not understand the people.”
Celebration has cultivated ties with Trump supporters and the alt-right in the United States, she said: ‘Before it was the moderates who had contact with the Republicans, but now it’s the SD who took over and the moderates are tied to the Democrats.”
“There’s a fear here that we’re becoming more like America with intense polarization and rhetoric,” said Adamson of the Atlantic Council. “Where every battle becomes existential.”
Rauhala reported from Brussels