The 19th of September 2010 was a difficult day for Swedes and a dark day for myself personally. This was the day the Swedish election results were announced. The election outcome came as a shock, an embarrassment and a warning sign for many Swedes. The reason many were shocked, embarrased or afraid was that the Sweden Democrats (SD) “Sverige Demokraterna” were voted to parliament for the first time. The party garnered %5.7 of the vote, a staggering 340,000 individual votes. Myself and many others felt embarrassed to call themselves Swedish that day. We feared that the ideals that Sweden is built on and supposedly espouses, such as equality and open-mindedness, were being eroded by hatred and xenophobic fear.
After the vote there was an outpouring of emotion and action by the Swedish people, who expressed outrage and attempted to counteract the results. These ranged from spontaneous large-scale demonstrations at Sergels Square (the capital city Stockholm’s central square) to Facebook groups ridiculing the results and the party through humor. One Facebook group asks if a kebab can get more fans than the Sweden Demokrats (as it stands today, the Kebab has triumphed). https://www.facebook.com/pages/Kan-den-här-kebaben-få-fler-fans-än-Sverigedemokraterna/300797356543 In Sweden kebab is a very common and affordable fast food- not to mention delicious-and the fact that it only came to Sweden because of immigration made this joke a genius way of satirizing the situation. Even global news stations (see one headline by BBC here) and ordinary people around the world were quite surprised that a country known for its tolerance and neutrality could elicit such results. Sweden and its news rarely makes headlines and usually does so in a positive light, making the results all the more shocking.
Protests at Sergels Square. Source: http://www.DN.se
Of course there are many reasons that the Sweden Democrats triumphed. In my view one major reason is the failing immigration system that previous parties in power have been unable and unwilling to reform. A political hot potato that was rarely ever touched, immigration and integration policy was allowed to grow worse and worse. The triumph of SD rests partially on this failure to reform.
But what perplexed me most was the lack of understanding among some who had voted for the Sweden Democrats about who they were voting for. The party has undergone quite a remarkable facelift since its inception in 1988. Starting with the party logo change, from the proud Swedish flag being thrust forward with gusto to a meek and pleasing blue and yellow flower:
As well as a logo change, some of the party rhetoric was toned down and some removed. Yet one needs to go no further than a Google search to understand what ideology the Sweden Democrats was founded upon and how much of this ideology still persists today. The founders and key members reads like a laundry list of the most dubious of 20th century movements and ideologies. Fascists, Nazis (including some that had fought on the side of the Nazi’s in WW2 or were active Nazi members during this time), skinheads and people from the BSS movement. BSS stands for Keep Sweden Swedish, a racist movement that aimed to stop immigration and repatriate immigrants to their home countries. The Sweden Democrats used this slogan up until the early 2000’s:
The BSS logo
One of the most scandalous practices of the Sweden Democrats was the wearing of Nazi uniforms and carrying of swastika flags to party meetings. This persisted up until the party banned the practice in 1996. With this clear historical connection to Nazi ideology, several contemporary scandals (such as the party being sponsored by a Belgian anti-semite) and ties to other racist groups, the results seemed even more repulsive and disrespectful.
For a great visual journey of the Sweden Democrats from founding to the present (for those of you who can read Swedish it also has quite a rich description of the party’s evolution), see Expo’s report:
For a look at the outrageous ads that the Sweden Democrats were sending on national television during the election campaign, see the link below. Some of these carry a quite obviously xenophobic message: