By Dimitrije Tasic
After holding office for only two months, a Swedish social democrat, Prime Minister Stefan Lofven decided to call snap elections for March 22. Lofven called for snap elections as he was unable to reach a budget compromise with the center-right opposition. In October 2014, Lofven’s Social Democrats formed a minority government with the Greens, controlling 138 seats in the 349-seat parliament. To be able to pass laws, a majority of at least 175 votes is needed in the Swedish parliament Riksdag.
The four-party center-right opposition alliance enlisted the support of the far-right, anti-immigrant party of Sweden Democrats to vote down Lofven’s budget proposal, pushing through their own proposal. The Sweden Democrats decided to oppose Lofven’s budget proposal as it did not account for their main request- reducing the number of immigrants by 90 percent. Currently, Sweden Democrats is the third largest party in the parliament (13 percent of the votes), with 49 of the 349 seats, with great chances to attract even more voters in the next elections.
The Sweden Democrats are strongly opposed to the current immigration policy in Sweden, which allowed Sweden to have the highest rate of asylum seekers per capita in the world. Sweden’s Migration Board found that only this year, as many as 2,000 people were applying for asylum every week, which is the highest number since 1992. Most of them were from Syria, and Sweden essentially offered permanent residence to all Syrians fleeing the conflict. The increasing number of asylum seekers also come from Eritrea, Somalia, Afghanistan, and Iraq. Mattias Karlsson, spokesman of the Sweden Democrats party calls the current immigration policy “extremist” and argues that the upcoming elections will in fact be a referendum on immigration policy.
The popularity of the Sweden Democrats is on the rise. In 2010, for the first time in their party’s history, they entered parliament, which was a shock for the political life in Sweden, since the party’s roots are in Swedish fascism and the white supremacy movement. However, today, the Swedish Democrats are the third largest party in the Parliament and they expect even more votes in the March elections.
Overall, high political drama as experienced in Sweden in the last couple of days is very rare for Sweden, a country in which advanced negotiations and harmonizing attitudes usually result in a compromise. In fact, March elections will be the first snap elections since 1958, which is why the new tactics of the Swedish Democrats brought quite a stir in the political life of Sweden.