The Swedish Hangover
Following the Swedish elections, a fragmented parliament and the rise of a far-right party is a wake-up call for European political thinking
by Isabella Engberg
For more than half a century, forming a government in Sweden was not unlike putting together your minimalistic “Jönsson” furniture from IKEA. As long as you follow the instructions and have a reliable leader to put the party pieces together, you should have a long-lasting, stable cabinet. The election on Sunday, however, could not have been more different. Whilst the votes are still being counted, what is clear is that it was a good night for the alt-right. The Sweden Democrats All the while the moderate centrist parties, the Moderate Party and the Social Democrats, lost votes. No party wishes to collaborate with the Sweden Democrats so forming a government will be extremely difficult and full of unsatisfactory compromises.
For years Sweden has stood as a stronghold for liberal values and a beacon of hope for progressives. During the influx of refugees in 2016 Sweden accepted around 80,000 asylum seekers. Some Swedish citizens blame the welcoming of immigrants for the rise of the Sweden Democrats and even Prime Minister Stefan Löfven for not doing enough to prevent their rise to power. But across the political spectrum smaller parties are on the rise and huge gains were made by the ex-communist Left Party.
The rise of the smaller, more individualistic parties is now a familiar trend across Europe. Almost all Western European countries have gone through similar “crisis” elections in the recent years, sometimes resulting in long drawn out negotiations to form coalitions. Germany formed a large and convoluted coalition in the spring. In the case of Spain, efforts to form a government ceased entirely.
For politicians across Europe, it is time for a new instruction manual altogether. Politics as we know it is becoming more unpredictable, more fragmented and far more contentious. Populists parties are here to stay. It is time to wake up to a new political reality and learn to live within it.