Tuesday

25th Apr 2017

Focus

Immigration not a topic for Swedish mainstream parties

  • No indication in the polls that the Swedish Pirate party will remain in the European Parliament (Photo: Didier Misson)

When Jimmie Akesson, leader of the far-right Sweden Democrats (SD), turned up in March at the Norrland University Hospital, a doctor barred the way to the section for the elderly that Akesson intended to visit.

"Your presence here upsets the staff as well as the patients. I cannot let you in," the doctor explained and Akesson had to leave.

Dear EUobserver reader

Subscribe now for unrestricted access to EUobserver.

Sign up for 30 days' free trial, no obligation. Full subscription only 15 € / month or 150 € / year.

  1. Unlimited access on desktop and mobile
  2. All premium articles, analysis, commentary and investigations
  3. EUobserver archives

EUobserver is the only independent news media covering EU affairs in Brussels and all 28 member states.

♡ We value your support.

If you already have an account click here to login.

The hospital was part of a tour of work places in Sweden by Akesson, following the example of the Swedish Prime Minister who has been doing such tours for a couple of years in order to meet "real people".

But Akesson has been less welcome. Before his arrival in the emergency rooms of a hospital in the city of Malmoe for a similar visit in April, 250 of the staff protested and wore pins with the text "Staff against racism" on their uniforms. At a nearby fire station, next on the list for a SD visit that morning, many fire fighters had chosen to work outdoors.

The Volvo factory of Umea wrote beforehand to the SD leader and explained that he would not be received. The nation-wide organisation "Folkets Hus" (Community centres) has also let the party know it is not welcome.

The debate is ongoing as to whether it is undemocratic to refuse a visit from Akesson on account of his anti-immigration views.

Meanwhile, there is also a debate on whether the Sweden Democrats stand to gain or lose from the cold reception they receive. Akesson is used to being met with demonstrations wherever he goes in Sweden but so far he has been able to dismiss this as "left extremists".

"I believe that this, in the short run, will win us more sympathy", he said after his visit to Malmoe.

But some, such as sociologist Ulf Bjereld of the University of Gothenburg, point out that the resistance to his presence is coming from working people, which are the very same people that the Sweden Democrats claim to be speaking for in politics. This makes the resistance harder to ignore.

Also, it runs counter to Akesson's aim for the party to eventually be accepted as a "normal" party in Swedish politics.

Since February, when its tour started, the Sweden Democrats seem to be slipping in popularity. From 9.5 percent in February, the party now stands at 8.2 percent.

No other Swedish political party has so far opted to use anti-immigration rhetoric. During a TV debate on 5 May, when the topic of Romanian beggars in Swedish streets was raised by journalists, all party leaders – except Akesson – were agreed that poverty must be tackled, not poor people. Free movement, they all declared, is a good thing.

With only 20 days to go to the European elections, there was very little said on European issues in the party leader debate. Instead politicians took the opportunity to campaign ahead of the parliament elections in September, where the main issues are jobs, whether to raise taxes, and how to improve school results.

Left-wing parties seem to be gaining: polls

The parties in Sweden gaining in the polls currently are to be found on the left of the political spectrum. The Left Party (ex-Communists) is up 1 percentage point, at 8.6 percent, giving it potentially 2 seats in the EP.

Overall, the Swedish Social Democrats seem secure in their lead with 32.9 percent (and a predicted 6 seats in the EP) whereas the governing Moderate Party stands at 24.3 percent and is not moving.

Yet another poll shows a fast moving Feminist Initiative at 3.2 percent of the votes. With no seat in the European or the national parliament, the party, led by former leader of the Left Party, Gudrun Schyman, needs to reach the vital threshold of 4 percent to gain a mandate from the election.

This latest poll, which is quite small and therefore less representative, indicates a record high for the Greens (with 16 percent) and a sharp decline for the Sweden Democrats (with 4.1 percent, near the threshold).

So far, there is no indication in the polls that the Swedish Pirate party will remain in the European Parliament.

EUobserved

When two worlds collide

Two worlds collided at the end of last week. The shrill, uncompromising one of British politics and the technocratic, dry, world of the European Commission.

EUobserved

Schadenfreude and fire-walking in the EP

There was outright glee in the EP on Thursday. It was time to dust off everyone’s favourite German word for pleasure in the misfortune of others.

EU parliament approves Juncker commission

MEPs have approved Juncker's new EU commission, with a slightly smaller majority than in 2010, and following a number of concessions on portfolios.

News in Brief

  1. Hungary's Orban will participate in EU parliament debate
  2. Malta floats cash-for-refugees plan
  3. Ivanka Trump to meet Merkel at Berlin women's conference
  4. Arctic Ocean could be ice-free in 20 years
  5. Nord Stream 2 to get €4.8bn from European energy firms
  6. Defeated Fillon retires from French politics
  7. Hollande: Vote Macron to avoid 'risk' for France
  8. Italy misses deadline on air quality warning

Stakeholders' Highlights

  1. UNICEFRace Against Time to Save Millions of Lives in Yemen
  2. Nordic Council of MinistersDeveloping Independent Russian-Language Media in the Baltic Countries
  3. Swedish EnterprisesReform of the European Electricity Market: Lessons from the Nordics, Brussels 2 May
  4. Malta EU 2017Green Light Given for New EU Regulation to Bolster External Border Checks
  5. Counter BalanceCall for EU Commission to Withdraw Support of Trans-Adriatic Pipeline
  6. ACCAEconomic Confidence at Highest Since 2015
  7. European Federation of Allergy and Airways60%-90% of Your Life Is Spent Indoors. How Does Poor Indoor Air Quality Affect You?
  8. European Gaming and Betting AssociationCJEU Confirms Obligation for a Transparent Licensing Process
  9. Nordic Council of MinistersNordic Region and the US: A Time of Warlike Rhetoric and Militarisation?
  10. European Free AllianceEFA MEPs Vote in Favor of European Parliament's Brexit Mandate
  11. Mission of China to the EUXinhua Insight: China to Open up Like Never Before
  12. World VisionViolence Becomes New Normal for Syrian Children