Briefing

The rise of the Swedish far-right

Ulf Kristersson is being called the 'far-right's locksmith' for opening the door in Sweden to a neo-Nazi-linked political party

The Swedish Parliament elected a new prime minister, Ulf Kristersson, who is backed by the far-right party the Sweden Democrats. What does this mean for the country? Here's everything you need to know:

Who is Ulf Kristersson?

Sweden elected 58-year-old Ulf Kristersson, the center-right leader of the Moderate Party, to be prime minister with a slim margin of 176 votes to 173. He defeated sitting Prime Minister Magdalena Andersson, who leads the center-left party, the Social Democrats, which is still currently the largest single party in the country after it received 30.3 percent of the votes in elections back in September, reports CNBC. Kristersson's victory came from a coalition formed by his own party and two other center-right parties, the Christian Democrats and the Liberals, as well as a boost from the far-right Sweden Democrats (SD), who had a record-high election result, receiving 20.5 percent of the votes. While Kristersson himself is not a member of the far right, he garnered far-right support after making government plans that included many of the same promises made by the Sweden Democrats during the general election, Politico reports. 

This is the first time in Swedish history that a prime minister needed to rely on the votes of the far-right party in order to get elected. The SD was initially founded by Nazi sympathizers and was shunned in the political space for much of its history, BBC reports. 

Kristersson had originally run for election in 2018, but could not overcome the Social Democrat lead. At the time, he said that he would not negotiate with the SD, as they were considered political outcasts, The Local reports. However, in 2019, Kristersson began cooperating with the far-right party and encouraged his own party to follow suit, leading to critics accusing him of "selling out," The Local continues. Ultimately, the four right-leaning parties won the 2022 election, essentially ending a political era in Sweden that the Social Democrats had long dominated. 

The new prime minister has said that his government will be made up of the Moderate Party, and the other two center-right parties. He did not mention including the SD, reports Politico. Gun violence and gang crime were viewed as top issues for Swedes and Kristersson vowed to "straighten out" the country. He also promised to bring down soaring electricity prices caused by Russia's war on Ukraine. 

Why is this considered a win for the far-right?

Despite Kristersson not identifying as far-right and the SD not being included in his new government, this election was widely considered a victory for the far-right. 

For one, the organization, once shunned, now represents the second-largest party in the country, making up 73 out of the 349 members of the Swedish Parliament as elected back in September. Even without a formal role, the SD will have a large say in government policies by providing the support from Parliament that Kristersson needs to carry out any of his plans. 

In order to garner the support needed to be elected, Kristersson created a 62-page pact detailing cooperation in seven key policy areas, focusing heavily on immigration and criminal justice, The New York Times reports. The pact includes a number of SD's policy priorities, including restricting immigration, doubling sentences for gang crimes, expanding police powers in certain areas, and checking people for weapons even without probable cause. It also calls for committees to be created that include members of the party that will help create new government policies, the Times continues. Sverker Gustavsson, a political scientist at Uppsala University, explained that the pact "gives [SD] a lot of informal power."

Sweden's new government takes a particularly strong stance on immigration, marking a momentous shift from the tolerance and diversity that Sweden has long been associated with, Reuters reports. Although there doesn't seem to be a single obvious reason for Sweden's shift away from this ideology, experts seem to believe that the rise of gang violence, much of which has occurred in immigrant communities, has created an unwelcome association, the Times writes. 

Jimmie Akesson, leader of the Sweden Democrats, called the new government a "paradigm shift when it comes to immigration and integration policy."

What does this mean for Sweden?

In the first few days of his leadership, Kristersson appointed a cabinet full of center-right members — a notable shift from the previous administration. 

He also entirely scrapped the nation's Ministry of Environment in what critics say is a huge blow to the country's climate targets, Bloomberg reports. The change will have 26-year-old Climate Minister Romina Pourmokhtari, the youngest cabinet minister in Swedish history, report to Deputy Prime Minister and Energy Minister Ebba Busch. Since the 1980s, Sweden had had a separate, independent ministry dedicated to environmental issues, something that was largely seen as progressive in the climate space, Bloomberg continues. The SD is the only political party in the country not to support the target of having net zero emissions by 2045. 

Making such a drastic move so early into leadership leaves a lot of questions about how Sweden will change. In a speech after his election, Kristersson said that "now begins the biggest offensive in Swedish history against organized crime" and that "immigration to Sweden has been unsustainable," The Associated Press reports. Given his words and actions, the influence of the Swedish Democrats is palpable. 

Ahead of the election, the Swedish newspaper Dagens Nyheter said that Kristersson could become the "far-right's locksmith," opening the door for the SD acceptance in the country.

Overall, the Swedish election marks another chapter in Europe's shift to the right, and only time will tell what the long-term outcomes will be. 

Recommended

How Guillermo del Toro's Pinocchio was made
Pinocchio.
Briefing

How Guillermo del Toro's Pinocchio was made

Iran carries out 1st execution of Masha Amini protests
Mohsen Shekari
Iran protests

Iran carries out 1st execution of Masha Amini protests

The daily business briefing: December 9, 2022
A Microsoft sign.
Business briefing

The daily business briefing: December 9, 2022

10 things you need to know today: December 9, 2022
WNBA star Brittney Griner at a court hearing in Russia
Daily briefing

10 things you need to know today: December 9, 2022

Most Popular

The rumored reason why AOC is facing a House ethics probe
Rep. Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez shows off her infamous "Tax the Rich" dress at the 2021 Met Gala.
dress drama

The rumored reason why AOC is facing a House ethics probe

Gen Z congressman can't rent apartment in Washington
Incoming Gen Z congressman Maxwell Frost
Frostbitten

Gen Z congressman can't rent apartment in Washington

Gas is now cheaper in the U.S. than it was a year ago
Gas prices
Gas Holiday

Gas is now cheaper in the U.S. than it was a year ago