|SocialismToday Socialist Party magazine|
Issue 182 October 2014
Sweden elections: conservative collapse, far-right gains
The elections in Sweden on 14 September were a catastrophe for the right-wing coalition government. The Red-Green ‘opposition’, however, also came close to giving away its victory. The racist right-wing Sweden Democrats doubled their vote, causing shock and anger. The result was another expression of an increasingly polarised Sweden and reinforces an already deep political crisis.
It was primarily a loss for the Alliance for Sweden: four traditional capitalist parties which formed the government in 2006. Combined, they are below 40% and lost around 470,000 votes compared to 2010. The leading party, the Moderates, is close to its 2002 low – with 23.2% (30% in 2010).
On election night, Fredrik Reinfeldt announced his resignation as prime minister and leader of the Moderates. He was followed by finance minister, Anders Borg. The Christian Democrats (4.6%) had their worst election in 20 years. The Liberal Party (5.4%) continues to decline. The Centre Party (6.1%) also lost out, despite the best efforts of the capitalist press to support it. The alliance could crack open.
For a long time, opinion polls had pointed towards a clear victory for the Red-Green opposition (Social Democrats and Green Party, with the support of the Left Party). The closer the election loomed, however, the smaller the lead became. The main reasons were the lack of an active labour movement, and the rightwards turn of the established parties. This was manifested in what was perhaps the most Americanised campaign, focusing on television commercials and appearances, with no mention of the issues key for the working class: privatisation, education, healthcare, jobs and conditions, pensions and welfare, as well as the environmental crisis.
The Social Democrats received 31.1% (30.9% in 2010), the Greens 6.8% (7.2%) and the Left Party 5.7% (5.6%). The Red-Green alliance did not put forward any anti-capitalist policies or suggestions that it wanted to take some of the billions from the large corporations and banks. The Left Party’s efforts to distinguish itself as the uncompromising opponent of profits from the welfare system collided with the leadership’s goal of joining a new government.
Due to the weak Red-Green campaign, the Sweden Democrats (SD) made gains using a mix of populism and racism – to 12.9% (5.7% in 2010). Despite its neoliberal tradition – its MPs voted with the last government in seven to eight votes out of ten – the SD gained support from voters opposed to the commercialisation of education, and those disgusted that the Social Democrats will not reverse privatisations. According to a survey, backing for the teachers’ union opposition to profits in schools was strongest among Left Party and SD supporters.
Even after eight years of right-wing rule, the Social Democrats’ vote was almost 4% lower than in their defeat in 2006. They will now try to form a government with the Green Party, although the support of other parties is also needed. The Left Party leader, Jonas Sjöstedt, spoke about the possibility of wider cooperation to isolate the SD. As expected, the Social Democrats rejected the Left Party’s participation in a new government, but want it as a supporting party in parliament.
Fear of going into fresh elections and crises tends to create new blocks and, on election night, the Liberal Party signalled that cooperation would be possible. Whatever the establishment parties say, they will not be averse to reaching towards the SDs.
Even though the SD increased strongly in the polls, there is a widespread desire to stand up against racism, sexism and class inequality. This was reflected in the fact that the Feminist Initiative (FI) came close to getting into parliament, with 3.1%. It was elected onto 13 of the 21 councils it stood for. Among the 18-21 age group, the Left Party and FI won considerably more votes than the SD. Instead of resignation, continued grassroots campaigns are needed more than ever. The election results can lead to an intensified struggle for a new workers’ party, with a socialist programme. This can offer a united struggle and a programme against capitalism, right-wing politics and racist division.
Per Olsson, Rättvisepartiet Socialisterna (CWI Sweden)