A line in the sand: Part 2 – Will the Sweden Democrats ever gain power?

04/08/2017 Tom Savage 
As said in the previous article, the Sweden Democrats have been continuously growing in popularity for a decade. Due to their relationship with the other parties they have not been allowed anywhere near government. Could this change though? We are getting to the point where they are getting so many seats in the Riksdag that the other parties cannot ignore them any longer. Is it possible for the Sweden Democrats to ever get into a governing position?


Current party leader: Jimmie Åkesson, in the Riksdag – Dagens Nyheter, 2011.


The current situation

Sweden’s Riksdag is elected by an open list proportional representation system. The nation is split into a number of constituencies, each allocated a number of seats relative to population. These seats are then allocated to different parties by vote proportion to politicians on the party lists in order. This adds up to 310 fixed constituency seats, the other 39 MP seats are used for levelling the proportions in the parliament to the actual national vote.

This system has allowed the natural growth of the Sweden Democrats from a tiny party into a powerful political force, far more than say a system like First past the post. Sweden has indeed evolved into a flourishing and constantly evolving multi-party system, where many parties are scattered across the political spectrum and the popularity and so power of these parties is constantly changing. In a truly proportional system such as this, parties are very unlikely to get into power, to form a government, without forming a coalition of parties and ruling together. This is exactly what has happened. The two largest parties: The centre-left; Social Democrats and the centre-right; Moderate Party must employ the help of other secondary parties and have so formed permanent coalitions of the left and the right.



Opinion polling for the next Riksdag election – Wikipedia 2017


The Next election

So where does this leave the Sweden Democrats? The Sweden Democrats are part of neither coalition, they grew up as a force to challenge the political establishment. To add to this, both coalitions have announced that they will not allow the Sweden Democrats to be part of a coalition government. Instead of facing the issues that make them popular, the mainstream parties have chosen to ignore it. And this has served them well. Until recently. Now Sweden Democrat vote share is getting so large that both coalitions will almost certainly fall well short of having a majority after the next election, with the Sweden Democrats being the second largest party in the Riksdag. If this indeed does happen, then everyone will be left in an awkward place. It leaves the mainstream parties with 3 choices:

  1. Form a coalition with the Sweden Democrats

Forming a coalition with the Sweden Democrats would seem like the correct thing to do. In other European nations, in other Scandinavian nations even, anti-immigration nationalist parties have been accepted into coalition agreements. This has allowed the migration and globalism issues to be addressed but in a controlled way. This faces two issues in Sweden. Firstly, both major parties have explicitly said that they will not work with the Sweden Democrats. The Moderate Party is the most likely coalition partner but would lose the support of the Liberals and Centrists. The left wing is even less likely than the centre right, though the Social Democrats have a tiny chance of agreeing, the Greens and Left Party certainly won’t. More importantly than this, the sheer number of Sweden Democrat members of the Riksdag would likely make them equal to their coalition partner, if not the more powerful coalition partner, its leader would then have the authority to become the Prime Minister.

  1. Form a Grand Coalition

The Social Democrats and Moderate Party if they were worried enough about the Sweden Democrats could form a coalition together. The centre right and centre left work together to form a stable centrist government. Grand Coalitions may seem weird to those who have not witnessed them but it is a phenomenon that has happened before in a number of European countries, including the current German government. The issue with this scenario is it would prove to many people that the current establishment parties are all the same and working with each other against the will of the people. Many more would turn to the Sweden Democrats as the largest voice against them.

  1. Negotiate a Confidence and Supply arrangement with the Sweden Democrats

The final option and what might be a good compromise is another deal with the Sweden Democrats. A Confidence and Supply partnership, similar to what the Conservatives currently have with the DUP in the UK’s parliament, falls short of a formal coalition and allows parties to rule as a minority government. In this scenario, the governing parties, likely those of the Alliance, will have to adjust their policy to work more with the aims of the Sweden Democrats and will work with them in parliament on a law to law basis. The problems? This would mean that the other parties would have to legitimise the party they’ve tried to ignore for so long, which they seem reluctant to do. More than that, they would have the power to hold the government hostage on certain laws and policies. Minority governments in this position are notoriously unstable and it is likely that if they do not work well together well, the government will collapse.


Final thoughts

The mainstream parties have Sweden absolutely have the right to be afraid of the Sweden Democrats. But it is a problem that they themselves caused. Generations of political parties ignoring the issues with an open door multicultural immigration policy and calling those who did address them racist has allowed nationalists to frame themselves as the only ones standing up against a corrupt government. What the mainstream parties need to do is address the issues that have made the Sweden Democrats so popular: immigration, the EU and multiculturalism. Until they do that, whichever of the above three options they choose, the Sweden Democrats will continue to grow.


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