Sweden Democrats

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Sweden Democrats
Sverigedemokraterna
Party chairman Jimmie Åkesson (on leave)
Mattias Karlsson (acting)[1]
Party secretary Björn Söder
Parliamentary group leader Mattias Karlsson
Founded February 6, 1988 (1988-02-06)
Headquarters Stockholm
Newspaper SD-Kuriren
Youth wing Sweden Democratic Youth
Membership 15,000 (December 2014)[2]
Ideology Swedish nationalism[3]
Euroscepticism[4]
Social conservatism[3][5]
Right-wing populism[6]
Anti-immigration[7][8]
Welfare chauvinism[9]
Political position Right-wing[10][11][12][13] to Far-right[14][15][16][17][18]
European affiliation none
European Parliament group Europe of Freedom and Direct Democracy[19]
Colours      Yellow
Riksdag[20]
49 / 349
European Parliament
2 / 20
County Councils[21]
161 / 1,597
Municipal Councils[22]
1,324 / 12,780
Website
sverigedemokraterna.se
Politics of Sweden
Political parties
Elections

The Sweden Democrats or Swedish Democrats (Swedish: Sverigedemokraterna, SD) are a far-right,[23][15][16][24][25] right-wing populist,[6][12] and anti-immigration[26][27][28][29] political party in Sweden that was founded in 1988.[30] The party describes itself as social conservative with a nationalist foundation.[3][5] Since 2005 its party chairman has been Jimmie Åkesson, while Björn Söder is party secretary and parliamentary group leader. An anemone hepatica flower (Swedish: blåsippa) has been the official SD logo since 2006.[31]

SD is divided into eighteen district party associations throughout Sweden, as well as in various local or municipal associations.[32] Young members are organised in the Sweden Democratic Youth (SDU), founded in 1998. The party also distributes a newspaper to its members, called SD-Kuriren.[33]

The party first became high profiled in the media after the 2006 general election, as they achieved success in many municipality elections (in Sweden these are held simultaneously with the general election). This was particulary notable in the counties of Scania and Blekinge, in the far south of the country. In Malmö, Sweden's third largest city, the party won more than 13% of the total votes and in Helsingborg around 15%.[34]

In the aftermath of the 2006 municipality elections, and their success in the southern counties of Sweden, the Sweden Democrats began to grow on the national level as well. Although the party's very first roots weren't tied to any specific geographical part of the country, it has since 2006 been a movement that has grown from the south towards the capital, Stockholm. A plausible explanation of the Sweden Democrats' relative popularity in the south, is the earlier success of the rather similar Danish People's Party in Denmark.[citation needed]

In the 2010 general election the Sweden Democrats for the first time crossed the four per cent threshold necessary for parliamentary representation. This increase in popularity has been compared by international media to other similar anti-immigration movements in Europe.[35] The party polled 5.7% and won 20 parliamentary seats.[36][37] The Sweden Democrats continued this success in the 2014 general election, polling 12.9% and winning 49 (14% of) seats in parliament.[20] The party remains isolated and excluded from exerting influence by all the other parties in the Riksdag.[38]

History[edit]

Early years (1988–1995)[edit]

The Sweden Democrats continued to use the Keep Sweden Swedish as a slogan.

The Sweden Democrats was founded in 1988 as a successor to the Sweden Party, which in turn had been formed in 1986 by the merger of Bevara Sverige Svenskt (BSS, English: Keep Sweden Swedish) and a faction of the Swedish Progress Party.[39] SD claims as its official date of foundation 6 February 1988 although observers rather see the party's foundation as part of a complex decade-long series of events, and some have even questioned that a meeting took place on 6 February.[40] The party had its roots in Swedish fascism,[39] and was a part of the white supremacy movement;[14] initially it was characterized by right-wing extremism and activism. SD's long used logo from the 1990s until 2006 was a Swedish version of the UK National Front torch.[39]

While opinion on the early SD vary, it is generally agreed (including by the Swedish Committee Against Antisemitism and Expo) that SD has never been a Nazi party, although various "connections" have existed through their members.[41][42] The party sponsored music of the nationalist "Viking rock" band Ultima Thule, and various party officials today acknowledge that being fans of Ultima Thule's music figured prominently in their decision to become politically engaged.[43] The party's first auditor Gustaf Ekström was a Waffen-SS veteran and had been a member of the national socialist party Svensk Socialistisk Samling in the 1940s,[44] and the early chairman Anders Klarström was formerly active in Nordiska rikspartiet ("Nordic Reich Party").[44][45] Early on the party sought international connections with the National Democratic Party of Germany, National Association for the Advancement of White People (founded by David Duke) and magazines like the Nazi Nation Europa and race biological Nouvelle École.[30]

Moderation and growth (1995–2010)[edit]

Jimmie Åkesson, interviewed before an SVT party-leader debate in 2014.

From 1995, the party's new leader Mikael Jansson (previously a member of the Centre Party) strove to make the party more respectable, and when photographs surfaced of some members posing in Nazi uniforms at party meetings, the wearing of any kind of of uniform was formally banned in 1996.[46][47][48] During the 1990s, the party became more influenced by the French National Front, as well as the Freedom Party of Austria, Danish People's Party, German The Republicans and Italian National Alliance.[49] SD received economic support for the 1998 election from the French National Front, and was active in Le Pen's Euronat from the same time.[48][50] In 1999 SD however left its membership in Euronat to its youth organisation.[50] In 2001 the most extreme faction was expelled from the party, leading to the formation of the more radical National Democrats.[49]

Since the 2000s (decade), the so-called "Scania gang" or "Gang of Four"; Jimmie Åkesson (party leader since 2005), Björn Söder, Mattias Karlsson and Richard Jomshof continued and expanded the moderation policy which included ousting openly extremist members.[48] Before the 2002 election, former Moderate Party MP Sten Christer Andersson defected to SD, citing that the party had gotten rid of its extreme-right elements.[50] In 2003, the party declared the Universal Declaration of Human Rights to be a cornerstone of its policies.[51] In 2006 the party changed its logo from the torch, to featuring an Anemone hepatica, reminiscent of the party's very first, but short-lived logo (a stylized Myosotis scorpioides).[52]

In parliament (2010–present)[edit]

In the 2010 general election, SD won representation in the Swedish Riksdag for the first time, with 5.7% of the vote and 20 MPs.

Sweden Democrat MP William Petzäll was persuaded to leave the party on 26 September 2011 while still retaining his parliamentary seat.[53] This was done because of Petzäll's alcoholism and the problem that might cause for SD's public image. Petzäll later died of an overdose, and the seat was turned over to Stellan Bojerud in September 2012.

In November 2012, videos recorded in August 2010 were released in chunks over three days by Swedish newspaper Expressen. This became known as the Iron pipe scandal. The videos, recorded by MP Kent Ekeroth, and featuring him and fellow Sweden Democrats Erik Almqvist (MP) and Christian Westling, showed Almqvist arguing with comedian Soran Ismail, among other things referring to Sweden as "my country, not your country". They were also shown threatening a drunken man, calling a woman a whore, and picking up iron bars[54] only to leave them when they heard police sirens approaching. Only a month after party leader Åkesson had instated a zero-tolerance policy towards racism in the party,[55] the video caused Almqvist to leave his position as the party's economic policy spokesperson and his place in the executive committee on November 14. He excused himself as having been under a lot of pressure and threats of violence at the time.[56] As more of the video was released revealing the other two men's involvement, the party announced on November 15 that Ekeroth would take a break from his position as the party's justice policy spokesman.[57] Almqvist and Ekeroth both took time off from their parliament seats. Sweden Democratic Youth president Gustav Kasselstrand and vice president William Hahne criticized the decision to remove Almqvist and Ekeroth in an op-ed in Dagens Nyheter, arguing that the party should not give in to media pressure.[58]

Sweden Democrat supporters in Stockholm during the 2014 European elections

Only two weeks after Almqvist and Ekeroth were forced to step down, fellow MP Lars Isovaara reported being robbed of his backpack and pushed out of his wheelchair by "two unknown men of an immigrant background". When trying to get into the Riksdag, Isovaara was himself reported by the police for racial abuse against safety guards.[59] The Sweden Democrats initially defended Isovaara, but backed down when Expressen revealed that Isovaara had actually forgot his backpack at a restaurant, and that the two men had helped him when he fell out of his wheelchair.[60] He left his seat in the Riksdag on November 29, and was replaced by Markus Wiechel.[61]

In the 2014 election the Sweden Democrats received 12.9% of the votes, doubling their support and becoming the third-largest party. Other parties, however, remain firm in their decision to isolate them from exerting influence. Some time after that, Åkesson announced he would go on sick leave due to burnout.[62][63] Mattias Karlsson was appointed to temporarily take over Åkesson's duties as party leader.

Ideology and political positions[edit]

The Sweden Democrats' party programme is based on nationalism and social conservatism.[64] The Sweden Democrat's ideological pillar is described in their manifesto first published on 4 May 2003 during Jansson leadership and then revised on 8 May 2005 (one day after Åkesson became the new chairman).[65] Nordic Studies scholar Benjamin Teitelbaum has called them radical nationalist.[43] The party has been described by sociologist Jens Rydgren, and others, as xenophobic, racist and right-wing populist.[66][67][68][69][70] In 2013, a Sveriges Radio journalist called the party xenophobic, which resulted in a complaint lodged to the broadcasting regulator. The Swedish Broadcasting Commission determined that this description was acceptable to use.[71]

Immigration[edit]

The Sweden Democrats believe that the current Swedish immigration and integration policies have been a failure.[72][73] SD is the only party in the Swedish Parliament without an integration policy.[74][75] They oppose integration because they believe that integration involves "meeting in the middle" and do not think that the indigenous Swedish people should have to bear the burden of what they see as a reckless immigration policy.[76] SD feels that the current situation with a large number of immigrants living in cultural enclaves is not beneficial for the country. They argue that the immigrants themselves are rootless, that there have been rising antagonistic tensions between various population groups (socially, ethnically, religiously and culturally), and the immigration in itself, SD says, has caused social and economic strains on the country.[citation needed]

As the party considers Sweden to have had too much immigration in later years, which it claims have seriously threatened national identity and societal cohesion, SD wants to reinstate a common Swedish national identity which in turn would mean a stronger inner solidarity. SD rejects the policy of multiculturalism, but accepts a multiethnic society where cultural assimilation is promoted.[citation needed] SD wishes to strongly restrict immigration, and give generous support for immigrants who instead of wanting to assimilate in Sweden voluntarily prefer to emigrate back to their country of origin. As more state funds are made free from funding mass immigration, SD believes that Sweden in turn will have the possibility to better help refugees in their own nearby locations.[citation needed]

SD has referred to the recommendations from the United Nations High Commissioner for Refugees (UNHCR) which state that the return of refugees should be the solution to refugee problems. Former party secretary between 2003–2004, Torbjörn Kastell had said in 2002 that the party wanted "a multicultural world, not a multicultural society."[64] In a 2008 survey, a significant minority of 39 percent of all Swedes thought that there were "too many foreigners in the country", and in 2007 a survey showed that 49 percent of all Swedes wanted to restrict the number of asylum-seekers.[77] In recent years, SD has tried to approach the immigration policy of the Danish People's Party, which from 2001 to 2011 provided parliamentary support for the former Danish liberal/conservative government in return for a tightening of Danish immigration policies and stricter naturalization laws.[78]

According to Aftonbladet, 14% of SD members are of immigrant origin,[79][80] which corresponds to the proportion of foreign-born in Sweden.[81] For the 2010 election in the municipality of Södertälje (Stockholm County), SD was the only party with a majority of immigrants on its electoral list, mostly Assyrians from the Middle East.[82] Polling 7.31% (3,447 votes), SD's municipal list in Södertälje got 5 of the 65 municipal seats.[83] Nader Helawi and 4 other Swedes from immigrant origin will sit as municipal councilors.[84]

The elderly[edit]

SD wishes to lower the tax rate for the elderly, as well as increase subsidized housing for the elderly. SD also wishes to allocate additional resources to municipalities in order to provide seniors with greater food assistance and, in general, improve quality of life. SD has also emphasized a desire to crack down on abuses and crimes of which the elderly are particular targets.[85][third-party source needed]

Sami people[edit]

The Sweden Democrats are critical of the special rights given to the indigenous Sami people of northern Sweden. In 2008, the party accepted a motion against the rights to reindeer husbandry. They have argued that those "who do not involve themselves with reindeer husbandry are treated as second class citizens" and that the privileges the herders have are "undemocratic". They want to restructure the councils and funds that are used to benefit the Sami population, so that they are used "regardless of ethnic identity and business operations." They also want to abolish the Sami Parliament which claims special privileges for an "ethnic minority while the society claims equal rights for others."[86]

Law and order[edit]

SD wishes to instate the possibility of life without parole for the worst crimes and to repatriate foreign citizens found guilty of serious crime (which already is general practice in Sweden, though the repatriation is usually limited to a few years after which the offenders are welcome to reapply for asylum). SD also wants to establish a public register of convicted pedophiles.[87]

Foreign policy[edit]

The Sweden Democrats in their foreign policy reject joining the Economic and Monetary Union of the European Union, are opposed to the accession of Turkey to the European Union and want to renegotiate Swedish membership of the European Union.[88][third-party source needed] [89]

Culture[edit]

The Sweden Democrats advocate a cultural policy that would strip funding for multicultural initiatives and strengthen support for traditional Swedish culture. This agenda has often manifest in opposition to state funding of immigrant cultural organizations and festivals, and support for traditional Swedish craft, folk music, and folk dance groups. The party also tends to oppose state-support for cultural initiatives deemed provocative or elitist.[90]

Family[edit]

The Sweden Democrats consider children raised in a traditional nuclear family as the preferred option. Those not raised by their biological parents should have the right to associate or at least find out about who they were. Government sanctioned adoption and insemination to single people, same-sex couples and polyamorous relationships should be avoided unless the adopting party are close relatives or already have a close relationship with the child.[91]

Although SD strongly criticizes what it calls a Homosex Lobby, the party claims that it is not hostile to homosexuals. Furthermore, party leader Jimmie Åkesson expressed concern that what he describes as Islamization of Sweden will eventually lead to the rights of sexual minorities being violated.[92] Published by SD Party secretary Björn Söder on 1 August 2007, a blog article titled Botten måste snart vara nådd[93] (Soon enough we'll hit rock bottom) led to intense debate and criticism.[94][95][96][97][98]

Controversies[edit]

During the 1990s, many outspoken far-right advocates were involved with the party.[64][99] The party had flyers printed by the French National Front in the 1998 general election,[100][101] and was financially backed for the 2004 European election by Belgian Bernard Mengal.[102][103]

Media boycott[edit]

The Sweden Democrats have complained about difficulties buying advertising space due to the media banning the party from advertisement,[104] which has been criticised by free speech organisations.[105] On June 16, 2006, Dagens Nyheter and Svenska Dagbladet decided to stop their boycott. Expressen, however, still retains a ban on Sweden Democrat advertising.[106]

Muhammad cartoon debate[edit]

After the Danish daily newspaper Jyllands-Posten published twelve cartoons depicting Muhammad and ignited a controversy during the 2005 autumn and winter, the Sweden Democrats gave their unreserved support to the publication with reference to the freedom of speech. SD stated that it saw no reason why a Danish newspaper should be forced to abide by Muslim rules and prohibitions regarding expression. When the boycott of Danish products was launched in the Middle East, SD launched a "Buy Danish" campaign in support of Danish workers.[107][third-party source needed] In 2006 SD entered to the Muhammad cartoon debate by publishing a cartoon depicting Muhammad on its youth league (SDU) and SD-Kuriren websites. The cartoon showed Muhammad from behind holding a mirror in front of his face. However, instead of any facial features, the mirror showed only a blank head. The cartoon was captioned "Muhammad's Face" (Swedish: Muhammeds ansikte).[108]

The publication attracted the attention of the Swedish government which informed internet service provider Levonline about the SD's publications. Subsequently, Levonline shut down SD’s web page. The Minister of Foreign Affairs, Laila Freivalds, denied any direct interference. However, at the same time Laila Freivalds condemned the publication as a provocation.[109][110][111][112] Freivalds then resigned from the Persson Cabinet after being accused of interference with press freedom and lying about such actions.

This event spurred debate on government censorship in Sweden. The Sweden Democrats also had a hate speech charge filed against them due to the posted caricature.[113] Similar hate speech charges were filed against other Swedish publishers who depicted Muhammad.[108] However, these charges were immediately deemed to be unfounded by the Swedish Chancellor of Justice (Justitiekanslern).[114]

The Sweden Democrats originally planned to publish a set of cartoons in their newspaper SD-Kuriren. However, after the controversy erupted, Jimmie Åkesson issued a statement on SD's website on 9 February 2006, stating that it would refrain from further publications online and in print, due to concerns that it might spur hostile actions against Swedes and Swedish interests.[115][116][117][third-party source needed]

The shutdown of Sweden Democrats' websites was reported to the Committee on the Constitution by the Liberal People's Party leader Lars Leijonborg.[118] SD filed charges against the Security Service (Säpo) and the Ministry of Foreign Affairs with the Justitiekansler and Justitieombudsmannen, alleging that the government's interference was unconstitutional.[119][third-party source needed] The spokesperson of the Green Party Peter Eriksson also expressed concern over possible government involvement in the event.

Electoral results[edit]

The party's share of the vote by municipality in 2010. Lighter shades indicate a higher percentage of votes. The Sweden Democrats performed particularly well in the southern region of Scania.

Parliament (Riksdag)[edit]

Election year # of overall votes  % of overall vote # of overall seats won +/- Notes
1988 1,118 0.0
0 / 349
1991 4,887 0.1
0 / 349
Steady 0
1994 13,954 0.3
0 / 349
Steady 0
1998 19,624 0.4
0 / 349
Steady 0
2002 76,300 1.4
0 / 349
Steady 0
2006 162,463 2.9
0 / 349
Steady 0
2010 339,610 5.7
20 / 349
Increase 20
2014 801,178 12.9
49 / 349
Increase 29

European Parliament[edit]

Election year # of overall votes  % of overall vote # of overall seats won +/- Notes
1999 8,568 0.3
0 / 22
2004 28,303 1.1
0 / 19
Steady 0
2009 103,584 3.3
0 / 19
Steady 0
2014 359,248 9.7
2 / 20
Increase 2

Party leaders[edit]

Group leaders[edit]

Other prominent party member[edit]

  • Sten Andersson (28 February 1943 – 16 August 2010)

Bibliography[edit]

  • Green-Pedersen, Christoffer; Odmalm, Pontus (2009). Going different ways? Right-wing parties and the immigrant issue in Denmark and Sweden. Immigration and Integration Policy in Europe (Routledge). pp. 53–67. 
  • Mulinari, Diana; Neergaard, Anders (2012). The Sweden Democrats, racisms and the construction of the Muslim threat. Global Islamophobia: Muslims and Moral Panic in the West (London: Ashgate). 
  • Mulinari, Diana; Neergaard, Anders (February 2014). "We are Sweden Democrats because we care for others: Exploring racisms in the Swedish extreme right". European Journal of Women's Studies 21 (1): 43–56. doi:10.1177/1350506813510423. 
  • Oja, Simon; Mral, Brigitte (2013). The Sweden Democrats Came In from the Cold: How the Debate about Allowing the SD into Media Arenas Shifted between 2002 and 2010. Right-Wing Populism in Europe: Politics and Discourse (London/New York: Bloomsbury). pp. 277–292. ISBN 978-1-78093-343-6. 
  • Rydgren, Jens (2006). "From tax populism to ethnic nationalism: Radical right-wing populism in Sweden". Berghahn Books. ISBN 978-1-84545-218-6. 
  • Teitelbaum, Benjamin (2013). “Come Hear Our Merry Song”: Shifts in the Sound of Contemporary Swedish Radical Nationalism. Ph.D. Dissertation, Brown University.

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