The nationalist Sweden Democrats party, lead by Jimmy Akesson, gained around 20% of the vote in Sweden's national elections held Sunday. The reason for this success is largely attributed to Akesson's appeal with an electorate that is disillusioned by the country's traditional parties and considerably less tolerant toward migrants.
The loose coalition of right-wing parties consisting of the Liberals, Christian Democrats, Moderates and Sweden Democrats (Sverigesdemokraterna) are the big winners at Sweden's national elections last Sunday (September 11). Popular vote handed over the country to the right, for the first time in nearly a century.
When the nationalist Sweden Democrats party was first voted into parliament in 2010, it represented a small minority with approximately 5% of votes. Now it is the second largest party in the country, with over 20% of popular consent.
Many believe the reason for this success is to be attributed to the coalition's leader, Jimmy Akesson, and his popularity among an electorate which has become disillusioned by the traditional parties and is also increasingly less tolerant toward immigrants.
Linking criminality to migration
Akesson, 43, comes from the rural municipality of Sölvesborg in the region of Blekinge, in the south east of Sweden. Hailing from this region he maintains a strong accent typical of that area. During the election campaign, Akesson presented himself as a man of the people, as someone who is able to understand their aspirations and worries.
Among these concerns in Sweden, the first on the list is immigration. Sweden in 2015 saw the second-highest number of asylum applications per capita in Europe, after Hungary. "The main reason for the party's (Sweden Democrats) success in the last decade has been Sweden's uniquely high number of asylum-seekers and unusually rapidly changing demographics in terms of ethnicity and the share of foreign-born citizens," Johan Martinsson, a political science professor at Sweden's University of Gothenburg, told DW in an interview.
In the last years, the suburbs of Sweden's big cities have registered an increase in armed clashes, mostly related to local gangs which have implicated Swedish citizens, born and raised in the country, but often with parents who are originally from a different country.
Swedish nationalists have capitalized on this aspect, the non-European origins of many gang members, linking it to fight against crime and migration.
In 2020 Akesson went to Turkey to distribute flyers saying "Sweden is full", with the clear intent to dissuade potential migrants and to bring attention to the problem. His action was strongly criticized in Sweden and the party leader was stopped (and deported) by Turkish authorities.
Also read: Swedish anti-migrant party gains ground