Exactly one week ago, on Sunday September 14th 2014 I was standing outside the Kirseberg school not far from my home handing out voting notes for the People’s Party the Liberals. It was election day in Sweden. According to the Swedish democracy system we have new national elections to municipality boards, called kommunval, provincial boards, called landstingsval and the national Parliament, i.e. Riksdagsval every fourth year. The last three elections were held in 2002, 2006 and 2010. September 14th 2014 was a sunny and beautiful day, almost Indian Summer. The first photo in this article was taken that day at 6.45 p.m. My second photo was taken eight days before the election day in Limhamn, western Malmö. Last Sunday I took the voting notes for my party and walked to the school yard, handed notes to the election staff who handled the procedure locally and then took up my post outside the school building together with representatives for the other parties. The first general election for ALL adult Swedish citizens, both men and women, was held 93 years ago in 1921. The Swedish parliament as such was generally formed in the 17th century, but has developed over time. In the beginning the Swedish Parliament, i.e. Riksdagen, was divided into four states called Adel, Präster, Borgare och Bönder, Aristocracy, Priests, Bourgoisie and Farmers. The modern form of the Swedish Parliament though has existed for about 200 years.
The Parliament, Riksdagen, today has MP’s from eight political parties: the Left Party, the former Communist party. Then there are the Labour Party the Social Democrats, and the Environment Party the Green in the left red-green bloc. Then we have Centern, the Centre, the former Farmer Union, originally a party for rich farmers and entrepreneurs in the rural areas. The People’s Party the Liberals, a social liberal party for entrepreneurs, teachers and bourgois intellectuals mainly, the Christian Democrats who were formed by representatives from the free churches in the early 1960’s and Moderaterna, the Conservatives. Since 2010 also the ultra nationalist Sweden Democrats with originally Nazi roots have entered the Parliament in 2010. Since they do have Nazi roots and a quite xenophobic agenda the other parties look upon them as a kind of pariah. When they got votes enough to get MP’s in Parliament in 2010 the basic national law was changed to say that Sweden is a multi-cultural nation in order to defy their goal of ethnic cleansing and white supremacy policies. Apart from the parties in Parliament there are also many other smaller parties such as Feministiskt Initiativ, Piratpartiet, Kommunisterna, Sveriges Pensionärers Intresseparti and others. A party must be able to break the four percentage bar in order to get representatives in Parliament.
During last Sunday citizens in the area came to vote. Some went straight into the school to make their political choice, while others took notes from all of us who stood there handing them out. Other voters showed very clearly which bloc they prefered by taking notes from only one side, but disdainfully neglected the other. Some people who came to vote made remarks. Some were nice and merry while others looked stern and decisive. The atmosphere among us who handed out vote notes were mostly rather cheerful, and even a young Communist man was chatting along with a representative from the Sweden Democrats. During a few moments you could sense a tension between some of us because of the different ideologies. Representatives from Feminist Initiative, The Animals’ Party and the Direct Democrats who are not represented in Parliament also showed up to hand out their notes. At one point some police officers showed up to check that all was well. When I talked to them they explained that they were checking all the local election halls in town and said that there were no troubles anywhere in Malmö, and that everything was handled with professionalism and calm. I remember that I read a comment on Facebook that an immigrant somewhere in Sweden had talked to one of my party fellows and said he was so surprised about the calm atmosphere in the election hall. He had said that in his home country there would have been strong conflicts, abuse and lots of blood, maybe even murders. Almost 86 percent of the Swedes voted last Sunday, and in most places nationally all went well, but with a few exceptions. In some areas of Stockholm Nazis from Svenskarnas Parti, the Swedes’ Party stormed into elections hall, intimidating, stealing notes and destroying things. In Rinkeby, a suburb with lots of immigrants people were harrassed by sympathisers of the Islamic State, and Hizb ut-Tahrir. Hizb ut-Tahrir has the goal to abolish democracy and introduce shari’a laws in the country. These people tried to persuade passers-by in that area not to vote and participate in the democratic system. Apart from these few extreme cases all was calm.
The evening came and the votes should be counted. I went to wait the results out with my party fellows at a hotell in central Malmö. I was discussing with several of them and the tensions were building for what was to come. We have members from all kinds of groups, also ethnically. A group of Liberal Kurds also visited the hotel. One of them, a young man in his early twenties used to be one of my pupils some years ago and we chatted along amically. In the beginning the mood was high and also the first results seemed to be good for us, but as the evening progressed it became quite clear that our party and the Centre-Liberal-Conservative Alliance would loose the power after eight years in Government position. Almost all parties in Parliament made worse and sometimes much worse results than expected. Only one party gained lots of votes and became Sweden’s third largest party and that was the Sweden Democrats. A smiling Jimmie Åkesson was cheered by his followers while all other parties were in shock. The Sweden Democrats ended on 12.9 %, and in most places here in southern Sweden they got between 13 and 30 % of the votes and quite high also in many other parts of Sweden too. At the end of the evening Fredrik Reinfeldt, the Conservative Prime Minister said that he would hand in his letter of resignation the following day and also proclaimed that he intends to end his time as party leader for the Conservative Moderaterna this coming Spring 2015. Shouts of dismay and protest came from his party members.
The atmosphere in the rooms where me and my fellow party members were were not exactly joyful. Gloomy is a more accurate word for it. On Monday September 15th 2014 Fredrik Reinfeldt resigned as Swedish Prime Minister along with the Alliance of Moderaterna, Kristdemokraterna, Folkpartiet Liberalerna and Centern. Now the Social Democrat leader Stefan Löfvén was asked to form a new government. This past week has been full of events and different ideas in social media about what has happened and what is to come. Stefan Löfvén first met Jonas Sjöstedt from the Left Party, the former biggest Communist Party. They have been campaigning together, but Löfvén instantly told Sjöstedt that he doesn’t want to have him and the Left Party in government. He wants to be free to seek co-operation with the smaller bourgouis parties Centern and Folkpartiet Liberalerna. Stefan Löfvén and the Social Democrats has to present a viable and plausible budget, but the bourgois Alliance parties intend to present a common budget in opposition this Autumn. The Sweden Democrats now have 47 seats in Parliament and will gain the Vice Spokes Man-role. Per Westerberg, the Conservative Spokes Man in Parliament shook hands with all the party leaders but Jimmie Åkesson from the Sweden Democrats. Anders Borg, Conservative Moderat and now former Minister of Finance has just like the Moderate leader Fredrik Reinfeldt said that he now resigns from politics, and the Party Secretary for my party Folkpartiet Liberalerna, Nina Larsson, proclaimed the other day that she will leave that position in order to be replaced by Maria Arnholm, the former Minister of Gender Equality.
Stefan Löfvén has had talks with the party leaders from Miljöpartiet de Gröna, Centern, Folkpartiet Liberalerna and Kristdemokraterna. Maybe he and the Social Democrats intend to rule only with a small minority government party, maybe together with the Environment Party the Green. In any case he has discussed to keep co-operation in certain issues with the bourgois Alliance parties, such as nuclear power, defence and the school system. The idea is to continue blocking the Sweden Democrats from influence. Löfvén has a problem though, if his red-green budget is presented and voted down, the Alliance parties present their budget in opposition and the Sweden Democrats vote for their budget instead Löfvén’s government will fall and there will be a re-election. Löfvéns problem will continue in every single case during his time in power for every issue. Something will happen, the question is when.
During this last week there have been many articles written and theories presented about why the Sweden Democrats have gained 13% of the votes nationally and in certain areas 17-35%. Then again in other areas they have almost no representation or none. The real Nazis, Svenskarnas Parti has gained zero % in the elections since they are so extreme, while their slightly less extreme counterpart Sverigedemokraterna has gained much more. SD-sympathisers have in recent years been bullied and harassed by left-wing sympathisers, in the press and by other parties. Still they have grown. Some of their voters have now explained in articles, on weblogs, interviews on Radio and TV why they have voted for the Sweden Democrats. It seems that angry and frustrated people who have lost their jobs, seen factories and companies shut down, have voted that way since they dislike the foreign competition. The Sweden Democrats have their strongest support in 1) areas close to suburbs with lots of immigrants in the cities, 2) in villages and communities on the rural countryside. Their voters say that they have been neglected and forgotten, and out of frustration have voted that way. The beheadings made by ISIL terrorists these last months, the attacks on Christians, Yazidi Kurds and other Muslims abroad, along with the planned IS attacks in Australia, Norway and the EU headquarters in Brussels, Belgium have also been strong influences. Also the former Social Democrat Prime Minister Göran Persson mentioned earlier today the struggle between the big cities and the countryside considering what preferences they have. In the three largest cities Stockholm, Göteborg and Malmö the other parties are strong, even some who are not even in Parliament such as the left-wing Feminist Initiative. Many people in the cities find gender equality, green issues and healthy living important, but on the countryside it’s more important to have cars, bus lines and train stations in order to go to and from work or visit friends and relatives.
Real racism too does exist in the Swedish society and some of their voters really are racists and have very foul ideas about people with other skin colour, and very prejudiced notions about foreigners in general. The Migration Authority has said that they need another 47 Million kronor extra to deal with the immigration the next coming years. The sometimes lack of integration and lack of free flats and houses to take on the new immigrants have also contributed to the changed attitudes. Protest marches against the SD progress have been held this week in several places, and immigrant organisations around Sweden have claimed that they intend to go on a strike on October 1st to show people that without their work Sweden will stop. There do exist problems with the integration and cultural collisions, and not all SD-sympathizers are racists. We must also open up for true discussions about prosperous and good examples of integration, but the problems with housing, religious and cultural beliefs, honour-related oppression and murders as well. If we do not discuss these things and try to deal with them accordingly the problems will increase, never doubt that.
However, we must remember…Blaming immigrants for being who they are aren’t okay, and we do have a responsibilty to take on refugees and other immigrants… At least to some extent. Racism and xenophobia exists in all countries and religions, just as family values and wisdom. We are all humans of the same human race all over the world with both similarities and differences. How we will deal with both the problems as well as good development of integration, competition and co-operation in society is an open question as yet. How the political parties including my own will develop and deal with the troubles and excesses of the world is another. One good thing today though was yet another kippa-walk held against antisemitism. This time performed in Gothenburg in western Sweden. Will our future be a rising journey to better models on a clear blue sky or will the Swedish and human road become solemn, Fascist and dark with just a few beacons of light?
Anders Moberg, September the 21st 2014