Anti-Immigrant Party Disrupts Sweden’s Usual Politics

SCOTT SIMON, HOST:

Sweden holds national elections tomorrow for the first time since the country opened its doors to hundreds of thousands of asylum seekers fleeing violence in and around Syria. There’s been a backlash to that wave of immigration, and now close to 1 in 5 Swedes say they’ll vote for the nationalistic Sweden Democrats, a party with roots in the neo-Nazi movement. Sidsel Overgaard reports.

SIDSEL OVERGAARD, BYLINE: It’s noon on a weekday in the Swedish city of Malmo.

JIMMIE AKESSON: (Speaking Swedish).

OVERGAARD: The leader of the Sweden Democrats is addressing a crowd surrounded by flags sprouting blue-petaled daisies, the party’s logo. Standing quietly to the side, first-time voter Leif Akeberg says he’s not impressed by what he’s hearing.

LEIF AKEBERG: This is the Swedish Trump.

OVERGAARD: He does not mean that kindly.

AKEBERG: If you’re clever enough, you’d understand that it’s just [expletive] he’s talking about. But not everyone is.

OVERGAARD: Akeberg says the Sweden Democrats’ policies are rooted in racism, plain and simple. And it’s true that despite the party’s long-running efforts to clean up its image, members are still regularly ousted for various racist offenses. But Giedra Andersson says that’s not what it’s about.

GIEDRA ANDERSSON: It’s not the time to scream that, oh, you are racist, and you will exclude everyone, and we’ll be just blue-eyed, blond people in Sweden. It’s not about that. It’s about being reasonable, being smart and using resources.

OVERGAARD: Like many of the other Sweden Democrat voters here, Andersson believes that Sweden’s new arrivals are putting a strain on the country’s generous welfare state, and people like her are paying the price.

ANDERSSON: If you are sick and you are going to the emergency room, you have to wait for six, eight hours just to meet the doctor. And that’s the reality.

OVERGAARD: The Swedish government says the usual wait is more like an hour, though that’s still longer than most Europeans are used to. But the issue that comes up…

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