As preparation for Monday’s broadcast, I received some questions/themes about the Swedish election campaign and Swedish politics in general. We didn’t get around to discuss all of them, but I thought I would post some notes about the campaign based on the questions:
1. The state of the Alliance: Why is the governing coalition losing?
If we assume that (un)employment and the economy have been the main issues on the agenda, then slow growth and persistent youth unemployment (even if we are far from Southern European levels) must be the place to look.
2. Why won’t the Conservatives cooperate with the Sweden Democrats?
The Conservatives (and the Alliance in general) are market liberals and pro-open immigration. The Sweden Democrats a) have a troubled history and b) lean toward the Nationalist-Conservative pole. We can also note that the Alliance have chosen the Green Party as its ally in immigration and asylum policy.
3. What are the main differences between the Sweden Democrats and Danish People’s Party?
The history. SD were born out of the violent and anti-democratic extreme right of the 1980s and 1990s. Jimmie Åkesson’s project has been to mainstream the populist right and make it acceptable first electorally and later parliamentary. It may take another change of leadership to reach the latter goal. The electoral potential is difficult to gauge – establishment commentators couldn’t see SD enter the Riksdag before the 2010 election.
4. The state of the Social Democracy
First, the Social Democratic platform seems very backward-looking with an expansion of (subsidised) jobs in the public sector as the main electoral promise and the solution to youth unemployment. Second, the party is looking at its worst election since the introduction of general and equal suffrage in Sweden. There is a contradiction here (or rather, the lack of new ideas may be an important explanation for the continuing weakness of the Social Democrats)
5. The New Politics dimension
The original question was about the role of the Green Party and Feminist Initiative, but in my opinion the new politics dimension also includes the Christian Democrats and the Sweden Democrats. That would make up some 25-30% of the electorate. Perhaps the fact that the socio-economic scale is so dominant in Swedish politics despite the strong post-modern character of Swedish society. On the other hand, the SD is the only party which doesn’t fit nicely into the established political blocs.
6. Is Sweden leading Denmark or Denmark leading Sweden with regard to political mobilisation?
In comparative research both Denmark and Sweden clearly belong to the group of Protestant countries which are also high in (post-)materialism and individualism. Sweden looks like an outlier – a very (post-)Protestant and perhaps even post-national country. Sweden also looks to the US with regard to identity politics while Denmark has moved closer to a European cluster. In many ways, contemporary Denmark is closer to a country like the Netherlands. So it is perfectly possible that Sweden and Denmark will follow different trajectories in the coming decades.