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Tuesday, October 3, 2023

Swedish Polls Witness Close-Run Elections Marked by Energy Crisis, Gang Crime

The election is fraught with anxiety and unpredictability, as Sweden’s emerging political polarization bears witness to centre-left and right-wing blocs facing long and hard consensus to form a government

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SWEDEN: Swedes are all set to cast their ballots on Sunday in a close-run election pitting centre-left Social Democrats against a right-wing bloc that has embraced anti-immigration Sweden Democrats in an attempt to regain popular support after eight years in opposition.

The Swedish polls this year have been highly volatile, influenced by a variety of pressing and pertinent issues affecting anxious Swedes. Steady growth in the number of shooting incidents, raging war against gang crimes and violence, topped by surging inflation and the energy crisis spurned by the Ukraine war all have taken centre-stage in this election.

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Although law and order is home turf for the right, the worsening economic crisis as households and companies face sky-high prices may become a bolstering campaign agenda for the Social Democrats. Their representative and the country’s leader, Prime Minister Magdalena Andersson, may just emerge victorious with her energy solution bid and secure the popular vote this year.

“My clear message is: during the pandemic we supported Swedish companies and households. I will act in the same way again if I get your renewed confidence,” she said this week in one of the final debates ahead of the vote.

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Before taking office as the country’s first female prime minister nearly a year ago, Andersson was a finance minister, well-versed in the art of economics and national statistics. She has enjoyed the confidence of her party and the faith of her citizens to establish peace and prosperity in the nation.

This year, she appears in a formidable standoff with her main rival, Moderates’ leader Ulf Kristersson, who sees himself as a daunting force, strong enough to unite the right and topple her from the seat.

Ulf Kristersson; Photo Credit: Twitter
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Kristersson has left no stone unturned in his diligent efforts to build good rapport among the Sweden Democrats, an anti-immigration party with staunch white supremacists among its founders.

Initially, the bloc had faced immense backlash from all other parties for its xenophobic approach to the issue of immigration but has now become a part of the mainstream right. The increasing hold of Sweden Democrats in the national polls suggests that the political wind of Sweden has changed drastically.

“We will prioritize law and order, making it profitable to work and build new climate-smart nuclear power,” Kristersson said in a video posted by his party. “Simply put, we want to sort Sweden out.” Kristersson’s hard-hitting approach is, therefore, ‘Sweden First’.

Opinion polls suggest the centre-left running neck-and-neck with the right-wing bloc, where the Sweden Democrats look to have recently overtaken the Moderates as the second biggest party behind the Social Democrats.

Kristersson wants to form a government with the small Christian Democrats and, possibly, the Liberals, and only rely on Sweden Democrats’ support in parliament. But those are assurances the centre-left don’t take at face value.

The election is fraught with anxiety and unpredictability, as Sweden’s emerging political polarisation bears witness to centre-left and right-wing blocs facing long and hard consensus to form a government.

Andersson has a lot on her plate right now, as she will need to get support from the Centre Party and the Left, her ideological opposite, and probably the Green Party as well if she wishes for a smooth second term in office.

“I have pretty few red lines,” Annie Loof, whose Centre Party split with Kristersson over his embrace of the Sweden Democrats, said in a recent SVT interview.

“One red line I do have is that I will never let through a government that gives the Sweden Democrats influence.”

Also Read: US Senate Delivers Bipartisan Approval to Sweden-Finland NATO Bid Opposing Russia


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