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Sweden Democrats

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Sweden Democrats
Sverigedemokraterna
Abbreviation SD
Party chairman Jimmie Åkesson
Party secretary Richard Jomshof
Parliamentary group leader Mattias Karlsson
Founded 6 February 1988 (1988-02-06)
Headquarters Stockholm
Newspaper SD-Kuriren
Youth wing Sweden Democratic Youth (1998–2015)
Young Swedes SDU
(2015–present)
Membership 24,291 (February 2016)
Ideology Swedish nationalism[1]
Anti-immigration[2]
Social conservatism[1][3]
National conservatism
Right-wing populism[4]
Hard Euroscepticism
Ethnopluralism[5]
Political position Right-wing to far-right
European affiliation Alliance for Direct Democracy in Europe
European Parliament group Europe of Freedom and Direct Democracy[6]
Colours      Yellow
Riksdag[7]
49 / 349
European Parliament
2 / 20
County Councils[8]
161 / 1,597
Municipal Councils[9]
1,324 / 12,780
Website
sd.se

Sweden Democrats or Swedish Democrats (Swedish: Sverigedemokraterna, SD) is a nationalist political party in Sweden that was founded in 1988.[10] The party describes itself as social conservative with a nationalist foundation,[1][3] however the party has been described as far-right,[11] right-wing populist,[4][12] national-conservative,[13] and anti-immigration.[14] The party had its roots in Swedish fascism[15] and was a part of the white supremacy movement in the late-1980s;[16] initially, it was characterized by right-wing extremism and activism. Among the founding party officials were several people that had formerly expressed strong support for the ideology of Nazism.[17][18] SD's logo from the 1990s was a version of the torch used by the UK National Front,[15] until it was changed to an Anemone hepatica flower in 2006 (Swedish: blåsippa).[19] Jimmie Åkesson has been party chairman since 2005.

In the 2010 general election the Sweden Democrats crossed the 4% threshold necessary for parliamentary representation for the first time. This increase in popularity has been compared by international media to other similar anti-immigration movements in Europe.[20] The party polled 5.7% and won 20 parliamentary seats.[21][22]

The Sweden Democrats continued this success in the 2014 general election, polling 12.9% and winning 49 seats in the Riksdag, a 14% share of the seats.[7][23] The Sweden Democrats, however, remain isolated in the Riksdag because the other parties are staunchly maintaining a policy of refusing cooperation with them.[24]

The Sweden Democrats is a member of Europe of Freedom and Direct Democracy group in the European Parliament.

History

Early years (1988–1995)

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

The Sweden Democrats party 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.[15] SD claims 6 February 1988 as the date of its foundation, although observers tend to see the party's foundation as part of a complex decade-long series of events, with some even calling into question whether a meeting took place on 6 February.[25] The party had its roots in Swedish fascism[15] and was a part of the white supremacy movement;[16] initially, it was characterized by right-wing extremism and activism. SD's logo from the 1990s until 2006 was a version of the torch used by the UK National Front.[15]

While opinions on the early SD vary, it is generally agreed (also by the Swedish Committee Against Antisemitism and by Expo) that SD has never been a Nazi party, although various connections have existed through their members.[26][27] 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 factored prominently in their decision to become politically engaged.[28] Among the founding officials of the party where several people that formerly had expressed strong support for the ideology of Nazi Germany.[17] 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.[29] In 1989, Ekström was a member of the Sweden Democrats' national board.[18] Early chairman Anders Klarström had been active in Nordiska rikspartiet ("Nordic Reich Party").[29][30] Early on, the party recommended international connections to its members such as the National Democratic Party of Germany, the American National Association for the Advancement of White People (founded by David Duke) and publications like the Nazi Nation Europa and Nouvelle École (fr), a newspaper that advocates racial biology.[10][31]

Moderation and growth (1995–2010)

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

From 1995 onwards the party's new leader, Mikael Jansson (a former member of the Centre Party), strove to make the party more respectable and, after photographs surfaced of some members posing in Nazi uniforms at party meetings, the wearing of any kind of uniform was formally banned in 1996.[32][33][34] During the 1990s, the party became more influenced by the French National Front, as well as the Freedom Party of Austria, the Danish People's Party, German The Republicans and Italian National Alliance.[35] 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.[34][36] SD, however, in 1999 left its membership in Euronat to its youth organisation.[36] In 2001 the most extreme faction was expelled from the party, leading to the formation of the more radical National Democrats.[35]

During the 2000s 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.[34] 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.[36] In 2003 the party declared the Universal Declaration of Human Rights to be a cornerstone of its policies.[37] In 2006 the party changed its logo from the torch to one featuring an Anemone hepatica, reminiscent of the party's very first, but short-lived, logo (a stylized Myosotis scorpioides).[38]

Entrance into parliament (2010–2014)

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.[39] This was done because of Petzäll's substance abuse and the problems this might cause for SD's public image. Petzäll later died of an overdose and his seat was turned over to Stellan Bojerud in September 2012.

In November 2012, videos from August 2010 were released, in segments, over the course of three days by Swedish newspaper Expressen (a year earlier, Expressen had released the same videos without making much noise). This came to be known as the Iron pipe scandal, although the same videos had already been released on YouTube by Erik Almqvist in 2010. The videos, recorded by MP Kent Ekeroth, featured him along with fellow Sweden Democrats MP Erik Almqvist and Christian Westling. The videos show Almqvist arguing with comedian Soran Ismail: Almqvist is referring to Sweden as "my country, not your country", as an insult to Ismail. They are also shown arguing with a drunken man. A woman can also be seen approaching Kent Ekeroth while filming; he calls her a whore and pushes her out of the way. A few minutes later they are seen picking up iron bars.[40] Coming only a month after party leader Åkesson had instated a zero-tolerance policy towards racism in the party,[41] the release of the video caused Almqvist to leave his position as the party's economic policy spokesperson and his place in the executive committee on 14 November. He excused himself as having been under a lot of pressure and threats of violence at the time.[42] As more segments of the video were released, revealing the other two men's involvement, the party announced on 15 November that Ekeroth would take a break from his position as the party's justice policy spokesman.[43] 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.[44]

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.[45] The Sweden Democrats initially defended Isovaara, but backed down when Expressen revealed that Isovaara had actually forgotten his backpack at a restaurant, and that the two men had helped him when he fell out of his wheelchair.[46] He left his seat in the Riksdag on 29 November, and was replaced by Markus Wiechel.[47]

Rise in support (2014– )

In the 2014 election the Sweden Democrats received 12.9% of the votes, doubling their support and becoming the third-largest party. The party remained big in Scania and Blekinge; for example in Malmö the party received 14% of the votes, in Landskrona it received 19% of the votes and in Sjöbo a total of 30% rendering the party was the largest in that municipality.[48] Other parties, however, remained firm in their decision to isolate them from exerting influence. Out of 29 constituencies electing parliamentarians, the party was the second largest in "Scania North & East" while being the third largest party in 25.[49] Although relying heavily on rural areas and the deep south, the party also made strong inroads and results above 15 % in some medium-sized central Sweden cities such as Norrköping, Eskilstuna and Gävle, indicating a widening of its voter base in all areas.

Some time after that, Åkesson announced he would go on sick leave due to burnout.[50][51] Mattias Karlsson was appointed to temporarily take over Åkesson's duties as party leader.

On Monday, 23 March 2015, it was announced that Åkesson would return from his leave of absence to resume his duties as party leader following an interview to be broadcast on the Friday, 27 March instalment of the Skavlan program on SVT, and a subsequent press conference with the Swedish media.[52][53]

Amid media coverage regarding the high immigration figures and the European migrant crisis, the Sweden Democrats soared in all opinion polls during the summer of 2015, even topping web-based polls from YouGov and Sentio in late summer, with a little over a quarter of the vote.[54] The party also saw rising support in phone-based polls, although the swing was lower.

Ideology and political positions

The Sweden Democrats' party programme is based on nationalism and social conservatism.[55] The Sweden Democrats' ideological basis is described in their manifesto, first published on 4 May 2003 during the Jansson leadership and then revised on 8 May 2005 (one day after Åkesson became the new chairman).[56] Nordic Studies scholar Benjamin R. Teitelbaum has called them radical nationalist.[28] The party has been described by sociologist Jens Rydgren and others as xenophobic, racist and right-wing populist.[57][58][59][60][61] 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.[62]

Immigration

The Sweden Democrats believe that the current Swedish immigration and integration policies have been a failure. 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.[63] 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 recent years, which it claims has 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 will be better able to 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. Torbjörn Kastell (former party secretary from 2003 to 2004) said in 2002 that the party wanted "a multicultural world, not a multicultural society".[55] In a 2008 survey, a significant minority of 39% of all Swedes thought that there were "too many foreigners in the country", and in 2007 a survey showed that 49% of all Swedes wanted to restrict the number of asylum-seekers.[64] 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.[65]

According to Aftonbladet, 14% of SD members are of immigrant origin,[66][67] which corresponds to the proportion of foreign-born in Sweden.[68] 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.[69] Polling 7.31% (3,447 votes), SD's municipal list in Södertälje got 5 of the 65 municipal seats.[70] Nader Helawi and four other Swedes of immigrant origin will sit as municipal councilors.[71]

The elderly

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 their quality of life. SD has also emphasized a desire to crack down on abuses and crimes of which the elderly are particular targets.[72]

Sami people

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".[73]

Views on national identity

In an interview for Dagens Nyheter, Second Deputy Speaker of the Riksdag and then-party secretary Björn Söder elaborated on the SD party programme with respect to its views on national identity by saying that he personally did not think people with dual national identities in Sweden would necessarily identify themselves as Swedish. Although an immigrant of any ethnic background in theory can become a Swedish citizen, they would have to adapt and be assimilated in order to be considered Swedish in the cultural sense.[74][75] Björn Söder stated that the officially recognized Swedish minority peoples (e.g. Sami, Tornedalians and Jews) in many cases have dual cultural identities and that they probably would be proud of both heritages.[74] It was widely interpreted that Söder had stated in the interview that Jews cannot be Swedish unless they abandon their Jewish identity.[76][77] Söder's comments were understood to be anti-semitic and caused Swedish parliamentary groups and party leaders to call for Björn Söder's resignation.[78] The Simon Wiesenthal Center listed the statement as number six on their list of the top ten most anti-semitic events of 2014.[79][80][81] Söder responded in the Jerusalem Post, denying the charges of anti-semitism and claiming Dagens Nyheter had taken his statements out of context.[82]

Law and order

SD wishes to instate the possibility of life without parole for the worst crimes and to repatriate foreign citizens found guilty of serious crime. SD also wants to establish a public register of convicted pedophiles.[83]

Foreign policy

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 in the European Union.[84][85][86]

Culture

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 as 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.[28] A 2014 letter signed by 52 Swedish anthropologists, including Ronald Stade, criticized the Sweden Democrats' use of the terms "culture" (kultur) and "anthropology" (antropologi), claiming their views on culture were "essentialist and obsolete", saying that culture is "dynamic" and "in constant change".[87]

Family

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. In their Family Policy, SD opposes any government sanctioned adoption and insemination to single people, same-sex couples and polyamorous relationships unless the adopting party are close relatives or already have a close relationship with the child.[88] They also state that children who live with a same-sex couple should be adopted to a same-sex couple if they become orphans and there is no pre-determined legal guardian.[citation needed]

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.[89] Published by SD Party secretary Björn Söder on 1 August 2007, a blog article titled Botten måste snart vara nådd[90] (Soon enough we'll hit rock bottom) led to intense debate and criticism.[91][92][93][94][95]

Environment

The party rejects the scientific consensus position of man-made global warming. They argue that other countries should reduce their emissions instead of Sweden which they believe is already doing enough on that front.[96][97] The party advocates keeping nuclear power plants as a prominent energy source in Sweden.[98]

Controversies

During the 1990s many outspoken far-right advocates were involved with the party.[55][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

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 16 June 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

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 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 for 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 had 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 they would refrain from further publications online and in print, due to concerns that publishing might spur hostile actions against Swedes and Swedish interests.[115][116][117][third-party source needed]

The shutdown of the 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 for 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.

Racist incidents

The Sweden Democrats have, among all Swedish parliamentary parties, had the largest share of elected municipal representatives resign since the 2010 elections (27.8%).[120] Many of these resignations were brought on by racist statements or actions by these representatives.[120]

In November 2012, party spokesperson Erik Almqvist resigned after he had been caught on tape making racist and sexist statements.[121] Another video later surfaced, showing how Almqvist, in addition to party spokesperson Kent Ekeroth and party official Christian Westling were arming themselves with aluminium pipes before they sought out a confrontation with Soran Ismail, a Swedish comedian of Kurdish descent.[122]

In November 2012, parliamentarian Lars Isovaara resigned after accusing two people of foreign origin of stealing his bag (which Isovaara had left at a restaurant) and then proceeding to verbally abuse a security guard of a foreign background.[123] Isovaara's replacement in parliament, Markus Wiechel, was found in April 2013 to have referred to a group of black people as "monkeys".[124]

In March 2013, 12 individuals were thrown out of the party for their involvement in neo-Nazi or other extremist movements.[125]

In November 2013, parliamentarian and then vice party leader Jonas Åkerlund gained attention for having called immigrants "parasites" during a broadcast on SD's own radio station in 2002, after the recording was publicly rediscovered. In his defence, Åkerlund stated that he only said it to provoke people.[126]

In September 2014, a few weeks before the general election, the party chairman of the local Stockholm branch, Christoffer Dulny resigned from his position. He had been posting mocking comments about immigrants, calling them "shameless liers" on alternative media sites.[127] He also resigned from his newly won position in the parliament on the same day he was elected, 29 September 2014.[128]

In October 2016, a video of the parliamentarian and economic policy spokesperson Oscar Sjöstedt making antisemitic jokes was released. Whilst at a party, believed to have taken place in 2011, he laughingly told a story about former co-workers with Nazi sympathies mocking Jews and comparing them to sheep.[129]

During the same month, the parliamentarian and second vice party leader Carina Herrstedt was confronted with having sent an allegedly racist, antisemitic, homophobic and antiziganist email to her then spouse in 2011. The email, which had been leaked from the party's internal servers, for instance contained phrases that named black football players from the team Landskrona BoIS as niggers whilst also picturing Romani people as thieves.[130]

In December 2016, the parliamentarian Anna Hagwall was thrown out of the party after using arguments associated with antisemitism to argue for a bill that she introduced in parliament intended to reduce concentration of media ownership in Sweden.[131]

In September 2017, it was brought to light that 14 active or former municipal representatives of the party had supported the Nordic Resistance Movement, a Neo-Nazi organization, financially through memberships or purchases of antisemitic and racist literature or souvenirs.[132][133]

Lobbying

The Sweden Democrats came under fire in 2015 for changing their position on profits made by private welfare companies. Before the election in 2014 they favored having restrictions on the amount of profit that welfare companies could take and use for their own gain. After the election they have favored the approach of the Alliance parties, that is higher and more restrictive quality standards.[134] This has been suspected to be because of extensive lobbying done by the organisation Svenskt Näringsliv among others. The story was discovered by the Swedish newspaper Dagens Industri on September the 14th, 2015.[135] SD has denied all accusations of corruption.

Electoral results

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 province Scania.

Riksdag

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 (#8)
0 / 349
Steady 0
2002 76,300 1.4 (#8)
0 / 349
Steady 0
2006 162,463 2.9 (#8)
0 / 349
Steady 0
2010 339,610 5.7 (#6)
20 / 349
Increase 20
2014 801,178 12.9 (#3)
49 / 349
Increase 29

European Parliament

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

Leadership

Party spokesmen

Party leader

Secretary

  • Jakob Eriksson (1998–2001)
  • Jimmy Windeskog (2001–2003)
  • Torbjörn Kastell (2003–2004)
  • Jan Milld (2004–2005)
  • David Lång (2005)
  • Björn Söder (2005–2015)
  • Richard Jomshof (2015–present)

Parliamentary group leader

Other prominent party member

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

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Bibliography

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External links