According to an opinion poll by SVT/Novus, Sweden Democrats (SD) are now the main challengers to the Social Democrats – despite it being considered the most “controversial” party. In Sweden, the Social Democrats are currently leading a minority government with Prime Minister, Magdalena Andersson, at the helm. Gabriel Hedengre, an editor and podcast host for Europe Elects – the European politics website and polling aggregator – and a Swede himself, explained to Express.co.uk what the sentiment is towards SD in the country and why their popularity appears to be growing. The trend that appears to be emerging from the polls is that the support for SD is now larger than the Moderate Party (liberal-conservative), explained Mr Hedengre.
Mr Hedengre said: “While SD has become a more acceptable party to many voters in recent years, especially on the right, it is still by far the most controversial and resented political party in the country.
“In 2018 [the year of the last Swedish election], 55 percent of voters said it was the party they liked the least out of the nine most popular parties running that year.
“Even politicians who will be negotiating and collaborating with SD in a few months’ time will admit publicly that the party is unfit for Government and call their representatives despicable.
“It is difficult to determine what the polls say about Swedish people’s feelings in general except that they are polarised, with support for the two political alliances being pretty much split evenly.
“That being said, the fact that many centre-right voters who actually despise SD are planning to vote for a bloc which contains them points to a very intense dislike for the current Government among many groups.”
Sweden is a parliamentary democracy with proportional representation where the parties are split into “blocs”: red is centre-left and blue is centre-right.
The SD has been on the rise since its inception in 1988. It has since rebranded upon entering Parliament, but despite this, still faces criticism.
Former leader, Mattias Karlsson, admitted some of the founding members were drawn from the openly racist group “Keep Sweden Swedish”, but that this was disbanded in 1986, two years before SD was formed.
Mr Karlsson has also said that the SD is “not a continuation of that organisation”. However, it still faces criticism from anti-fascists.
Its current leader, Jimmie Åkesson, led its reform, expelling members, and has since grappled to ensure he has the support of some other parties.
It is thought the Swedish public’s perception that SD is toughest on both crime and immigration has led to its increase in popularity.
The SD has just announced its plans to reduce asylum migration to “almost zero”, in a bid to have the lowest levels of immigration in any country in Europe.
Mr Hedengre continued: “The party has been able to recover its support during the campaign [since the pandemic and Russia invading Ukraine] mainly due the important role played by debates around crime and refugee integration.
“A recent poll from Novus shows that voters think SD has the best policy agenda when it comes to crime, overtaking the Moderate Party for the first time.
“It has managed to increase its national vote share in every single election since  which is a remarkable political feat.
“Since 2010 when it entered Parliament, the party has had as its focus to re-brand and reform itself so that other right-wing parties will feel comfortable collaborating with them.
“After 2018, when the centre-right alliance failed to unseat the centre-left government, this strategy has paid off with SD now being part of a loose right-wing bloc in which voters also flow between the parties more freely.”
While Mr Hedengre said there was not necessarily a specific policy driving its recent surge in the polls, it appears Swedish voters are prioritising immigration and crime.
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He continued: “Years of aggressive campaigning has meant that the party has successfully asserted itself as being the toughest on immigration as well as crime…
“According to a recent Novus poll, the voters rank SD first when it comes to both immigration and law and order.”
However, Mr Hedengre explained this increase in popularity had nothing to do with the party’s former “Euroscepticism” as the SD abandoned its “Swexit” stance in 2019 in a bid to align itself with the mainstream right-wing parties.
He added: “[The mainstream right-wing parties] consistently listed the [Swexit] policy as a key argument against giving SD any form of political influence.
“Recent polls also show that less than one in eight Swedes are in favour of leaving the EU, so a highly Eurosceptic campaign would risk alienating many potential voters.”
Sweden’s parliamentary elections are due to take place on September 11.