Anti-Immigrant Party Disrupts Sweden’s Usual Politics


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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