For decades, power in Sweden has bounced back and forth between centre-left and centre-right coalitions. On the face of it, this week’s election results are no different: the formal resignation of prime minister Magdalena Andersson yesterday was followed by a declaration from opposition leader Ulf Kristersson that he intended to form a coalition government. However, this election has been reported differently to others. This is because of the success of the Sweden Democrats (SD), a party with roots in the neo-Nazi movement.
Like all European countries, Sweden is suffering from high inflation turbo-charged by energy costs. It is also contending with rising levels of violent crime. In August the shooting of a woman in Malmö brought the number of gun deaths this year to 44, meaning that 2022 is on course to be the most violent in the nation’s recent history. A country famed for its social cohesion has also struggled to integrate the 150,000 asylum seekers whom it took in during the 2015 refugee crisis.
While the world has continued to hold Sweden up as a paragon of progressivism, it seems that this reputation might be crumbling. But this week’s results do not represent a country in disarray. Since violent crime was the number-one issue on voters’ minds, it is unsurprising that the party that focused most heavily on it won 20 per cent of the vote. Though the minatory statements of some SD leaders are undoubtedly disturbing, the moderating influence of coalition government will hopefully temper its extremity. The truth is that Sweden is neither a crime-ridden hellhole nor in the midst of a turn to fascism; nor is it a utopia. It is a European country like any other, one not immune to turbulence.
Alexis Self is Monocle’s associate editor.