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Swedish Democrats

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Swedish Democrats

Sweden Democrats
Sverigedemokraterna
Jimmie Åkesson
Parliamentary group leader Björn Söder
Founded February 6, 1988 (1988-02-06)
Headquarters Stockholm
Newspaper SD-Kuriren
Youth wing Sweden Democratic Youth
Membership 10,000 (August 2013)[1]
Ideology Swedish nationalism[2]
Right-wing populism[3]
Euroscepticism
Political position Far-right[4]
European affiliation None
Colours Blue, yellow
Parliament[5][6] Template:Infobox political party/seats
European Parliament Template:Infobox political party/seats
Counties[7] Template:Infobox political party/seats
Municipalities[8] Template:Infobox political party/seats
Website
sverigedemokraterna.se
Politics of Sweden
Political parties
Elections

The Sweden Democrats or Swedish Democrats (Swedish: Sverigedemokraterna, SD) are a far-right[4] and right-wing populist[4] political party in Sweden[4][9] that was founded in 1988. SD describes itself as a nationalist movement. Since 2005, its party chairman is Jimmie Åkesson, while Björn Söder is the party secretary and parliamentary group leader. An Anemone hepatica flower (blåsippa) is the official SD logo since 2006.[10] In 2011 the party moderated its profile by also identifying as a social conservative party.[2]

The Sweden Democrats reached 10,000 members in August 2013.[1] SD is divided in eighteen district party associations throughout Sweden, as well as in various local or municipal associations.[11] Young members are organised in the Sweden Democratic Youth (SDU), founded in 1998. The party also distributes a newspaper to its members, SD-Kuriren.

In the 2010 general election, the Sweden Democrats for the first time crossed the four percent threshold necessary for parliamentary representation. This increase in popularity has been compared by international media to other similar anti-immigration movements in Europe.[12] The party polled 5.7% and won 20 parliamentary seats.[5][6]

History

Early years (1988–1995)

The Sweden Democrats was founded on 6 February 1988[13][third-party source needed] as a successor to the Sweden Party, which in turn had been founded in 1986 by the merger of the racist organisation Bevara Sverige Svenskt (BSS) and a faction of the xenophobic and populist Progress Party.[14] The roots of the party can be found in Swedish fascism. One of Party's early chairman, Anders Klarström, was formerly active in the Nazi Nordiska rikspartiet (Nordic Reich Party).[15][16] The party was characterized initially by right-wing extremism and activism. In 1999 they rejected Nazism,[14] although SD's long used logo in the 1990s and to 2006 was a Swedish version of the NF torch.[14] While opinion on the early SD vary, it is generally agreed (including by the Swedish Committee Against Antisemitism and Expo), that the SD has never been a Nazi party, although various "connections" have existed by members [17][18] The party did sponsor the music of a nationalist Viking rock band Ultima Thule, and various party leaders today acknowledge that the band's music figured prominently in their decision to become politically engaged.[19] The party’s first auditor Gustaf Ekström was a Waffen-SS veteran and had been a member of the national socialist party Svensk Socialistisk Samling in the 1940s.[15] Since the late 1990s, the party nevertheless underwent an extensive moderation policy.[20]

Moderation (1995–2010)

From 1995, the party's new leader Mikael Jansson (previously a member of the Centre Party) strove to make the party more respectable, and introduced a uniform ban in 1996,[20][21] possibly as a result of photographs of members posing in Nazi uniforms at party meetings reaching the media.[22] During the 1990s, the party became more influenced by the French National Front, as well as the Freedom Party of Austria, Danish People's Party, German The Republicans and Italian National Alliance.[23] SD received economic support for the 1998 election by the French National Front, and was active in Le Pen's Euronat from the same time.[21][24] In 1999, however, SD left its membership in Euronat to its youth organisation.[24] In 2001, the more radical faction in the party was expelled, and broke out and established the National Democrats.[23]

Since the 2000s (decade), the so-called "Scania gang" or "Gang of Four"; Jimmie Åkesson (party leader since 2005), Björn Söder, Mattias Karlsson and Richard Jomshof continued the moderation policy which included ousting openly extremist members.[21] Before the 2002 election, former Moderate Party MP Sten Christer Andersson defected to SD, citing that the party had gotten rid of its extreme right elements.[24] In 2003, the party declared the Universal Declaration of Human Rights to be a cornerstone of its policies.[25] In 2006, the party changed its logo from the torch, to featuring an Anemone hepatica, reminiscent of the party's very first, but short-lived logo: a stylized Myosotis scorpioides.[13]

In parliament (2010–present)

For the 2010 general election, SD for the first time won representation in the Swedish parliament, with 5.7% of the vote and 20 MPs.

Swedish Democratic MP William Petzäll was persuaded to leave the party on 26 September 2011 while still retaining his parliamentary seat.[26] This was done because of Petzäll's alcoholism and the problem that might cause for SD's public image. Petzäll later died of an overdose, and the seat was turned over to Stellan Bojerud in September 2012.

In November 2012, videos recorded in August 2010 were released in chunks over three days by Swedish newspaper Expressen. The videos, recorded by Kent Ekeroth (MP), and featuring him and fellow Sweden Democrats Erik Almqvist (MP) and Christian Westling, showed Almqvist arguing with comedian Soran Ismail, among other things referring to Sweden as "my country, not your country". They were also shown threatening a drunken man, calling a woman a whore, and picking up iron bars[27] only to leave them when they heard police sirens approaching. Only a month after party leader Åkesson had instated a zero-tolerance policy towards racism in the party,[28] the video caused Almqvist to leave his position as the party's economic policy spokesperson and his place in the executive committee on November 14. He excused himself as having been under a lot of pressure and threats of violence at the time.[29] As more of the video was released revealing the other two men's involvement, the party announced on November 15 that Ekeroth would take a break from his position as the party's justice policy spokesman.[30] Almqvist and Ekeroth both took time off from their parliament seats. Sweden Democratic Youth president Gustav Kasselstrand and vice president William Hahne criticized the decision to remove Almqvist and Ekeroth in an op-ed in Dagens Nyheter, arguing that the party should not give in to media pressure.[31]

Only two weeks after Almqvist and Ekeroth were forced to step down, fellow MP Lars Isovaara reported being robbed of his backpack and pushed out of his wheelchair by "two unknown men with immigrant background". When trying to get into the Riksdag, Isovaara was himself reported by the police for racial abuse against safety guards.[32] The Sweden Democrats initially defended Isovaara, but backed down when Expressen revealed that Isovaara had actually forgot his backpack at a restaurant, and that the two men had helped him when he fell out of his wheelchair.[33] He left his seat in the Riksdag on November 29, and was replaced by Markus Wiechel.[34]

Ideology and political positions

The Sweden Democrats' party programme is based on nationalism.[35] The Sweden Democrat's ideological pillar is described in their manifesto first published on 4 May 2003 during Jansson leadership and then revised on 8 May 2005 (one day after Åkesson became the new chairman).[36][third-party source needed] The journalist and historical author Henrik Arnstad has characterized the party as fascist.[37] Nordic Studies scholar Benjamin Teitelbaum has called them radical nationalist.[38] The party has been described by sociologist Jens Rydgren, and others, as xenophobic, racist and right-wing populist.[39][40][41][42][43] In 2013, a Sveriges Radio journalist called the party xenophobic, which resulted in a complaint lodged to the broadcasting regulator. The Swedish Broadcasting Commission determined that this description was acceptable to use.[44]

Immigration

The Sweden Democrats believe that the current Swedish immigration and integration policies have been a failure.[45][46] SD is the only party in the Swedish Parliament without an integration policy.[47][48] They oppose integration because they believe that integration involves "meeting in the middle" and do not think that the Swedish people should have to bear the burden of what they see as a reckless immigration policy.[49][third-party source needed] SD feels that the current situation with a large number of immigrants living in cultural enclaves is not beneficial for the country. The immigrants themselves are rootless, there have been rising antagonistic tensions between various population groups (socially, ethnically, religiously and culturally), and the immigration in itself, SD says, has caused social and economic strains on the country.

As the party considers Sweden to have had too much immigration in later years, which it claims have seriously threatened national identity and societal cohesion, SD wants to reinstate a common Swedish national identity which in turn would mean a stronger inner solidarity. SD rejects the policy of multiculturalism, but accepts a multiethnic society where cultural assimilation is promoted. SD wishes to strongly restrict immigration, and give generous support for immigrants who instead of wanting to assimilate in Sweden voluntarily prefer to emigrate back to their country of origin. As more state funds are made free from funding mass immigration, SD believes that Sweden in turn will have the possibility to better help refugees in their own nearby locations.

SD has referred to the recommendations from the United Nations High Commissioner for Refugees (UNHCR) which state that the return of refugees should be the solution to refugee problems. Former party secretary between 2003–2004, Torbjörn Kastell had said in 2002 that the party wanted "a multicultural world, not a multicultural society.[35] In a 2008 survey, a significant minority of 39 percent of all Swedes thought that there were "too many foreigners in the country", and in 2007 a survey showed that 49 percent of all Swedes wanted to restrict the number of asylum seekers.[50] In recent years, SD has tried to approach the immigration policy of the Danish People's Party, which from 2001 to 2011 provided parliamentary support for the former Danish liberal/conservative government in return for a tightening of Danish immigration policies and stricter naturalization laws.[51]

According to Aftonbladet, 14% of SD members are of immigrant origin,[52][53] which corresponds to the proportion of foreign-born in Sweden.[54] For the 2010 election in the municipality of Södertälje (Stockholm County), SD was the only party with a majority of immigrants on its electoral list, mostly Chaldean Christians from the Middle East.[55] Polling 7.31% (3,447 votes), SD's municipal list in Södertälje got 5 of the 65 municipal seats.[56] Nader Helawi and 4 other Swedes from immigrant origin will sit as municipal councilors.[57]

The Elderly

SD wishes to lower the tax rate for the elderly, as well as increase subsidized housing for the elderly. SD also wishes to allocate additional resources to municipalities in order to provide seniors with greater food assistance and, in general, improve quality of life. SD has also emphasized a desire to crack down on abuses and crimes which, in particular, targets the elderly.[58][third-party source needed]

Sami people

The Sweden Democrats are critical of the special rights given to the indigenous Sami people of northern Sweden. It has been argued that the Sweden Democrats want to abolish their constitutional status as "indigenous" and even deport members of other ethnic groups.[59] In 2008, the party accepted a motion against the rights to reindeer husbandry. They have argued that those "who do not involve themselves with reindeer husbandry are treated as second class citizens" and that the privileges the herders have are "undemocratic." They want to restructure the councils and funds that are used to benefit the Sami population, so that they are used "regardless of ethnic identity and business operations." They also want to abolish the Sami Parliament which claims special privileges for an "ethnic minority while the society claims equal rights for others."[60]

Law and order

SD wishes to instate the possibility of life without parole for the worst crimes and to repatriate foreign citizens found guilty of serious crime (which already is general practice in Sweden, though the repatriation is usually limited to a few years after which the offenders are welcome to reapply for asylum). SD also wants to establish a public register of convicted pedophiles.[61]

Foreign policy

The Sweden Democrats in their foreign policy reject joining the Economic and Monetary Union of the European Union, are opposed to the Accession of Turkey to the European Union and want to renegotiate Swedish membership of the European Union.[62][third-party source needed]

Culture

The Sweden Democrats advocate a cultural policy that would strip funding for multicultural initiatives and strengthen support for traditional Swedish culture. This agenda has often manifest in opposition to state funding of immigrant cultural organizations and festivals, and support for traditional Swedish craft, folk music, and folk dance groups. The party also tends to oppose state-support for cultural initiatives deemed provocative or elitist.[63]

Family

The Sweden Democrats are in favour of the traditional nuclear family and believe that every child should have "one father and one mother", according to their website. According to the Social Democrat Björn Andersson's blog, SD is opposed to adoption rights for homosexual couples, and to letting lesbian women become inseminated.[64] Although SD strongly criticizes what it calls a Homosex Lobby, the party claims that it is not hostile to homosexuals. Further, party leader Jimmie Åkesson expresses concern that, what he describes as Islamization of Sweden, will eventually lead to the rights of sexual minorities being violated.[65] Published by SD Party secretary Björn Söder on 1 August 2007, a blog article titled Botten måste snart vara nådd[66] (Soon enough we'll hit rock bottom) led to intense debate and criticism.[67][68][69][70][71]

Controversies

During the 1990s, it is known that many outspokenly far-right persons has been involved with the party.[35][72] The party was supported financially in the 1998 general election by the French National Front,[73][74] and for the 2004 European election by Belgian Bernard Mengal.[75][76]

The Sweden Democrats' response

The party dissociates itself from all forms of totalitarianism and racism and states that it considers the 1948 Universal Declaration of Human Rights a fundamental component of its politics. Furthermore, the party says that its fundamental goal is to combine the principle of social and economic justice with traditional conservative values. For this reason, the party believes that it is not easily pinpointed on the traditional left-right political spectrum in Swedish politics.[77] Also, the Sweden Democrats say they have expelled all openly extremist members from the party, and refuse membership to anyone who has extremist views.

Media boycott and discrimination

The Sweden Democrats have complained about difficulties buying advertising space due to the media banning the party from advertisement,[78] which has been criticised by free speech organisations.[79] On June 16, 2006, however Dagens Nyheter and Svenska Dagbladet decided to stop their boycott. Expressen though still retains the ban on Sweden Democrat advertising.[80]

The Mohammed cartoon debate

After the Danish daily newspaper Jyllands-Posten published twelve cartoons depicting Mohammed and ignited the Jyllands-Posten Muhammad cartoons controversy during the 2005 autumn and winter, the Sweden Democrats gave their unreserved support to the publication with reference to the freedom of speech. SD stated that it saw no reason why a Danish newspaper should be forced to abide by Muslim rules and prohibitions regarding expression. When the boycott of Danish products was launched in the Middle East, SD launched a "Buy Danish" campaign in support of Danish workers.[81][third-party source needed] In 2006 SD entered to the Mohammed cartoon debate by publishing a Mohammed-depicting cartoon on its youth league (SDU) and SD-Kuriren websites. The cartoon showed Mohammed from behind holding a mirror in front of his face. However, instead of any facial features, the mirror showed only a blank head. The cartoon was captioned "Mohammed's Face" (Muhammeds ansikte in Swedish).[82]

The publication attracted the attention of the Swedish government which informed internet service provider Levonline about the SD's publications. Subsequently, Levonline shut down SD’s web page. The government and the Minister of Foreign Affairs, Laila Freivalds, denied any direct interference. However, at the same time Laila Freivalds condemned the publication as a provocation.[83][84][85][86] Freivalds then resigned as Minister after being accused of interference with press freedom and lying about such actions.

This event spurred debate on government censorship in Sweden. The Sweden Democrats also had a hate speech charge filed against them due to the posted caricature.[87] Similar hate speech charges were filed against other Swedish publishers who depicted Mohammed.[82] However, these charges were immediately deemed to be unfounded by the Swedish Chancellor of Justice (Justitiekanslern).[88]

The Sweden Democrats originally planned to publish a set of cartoons in their newspaper SD-Kuriren. However, after the controversy erupted, Jimmie Åkesson issued a statement on SD's website on 9 February 2006, stating that it would refrain from further publications online and in print, due to concerns that it might spur hostile actions against Swedes and Swedish interests.[89][90][91][third-party source needed]

The shutdown of Sweden Democrats' websites was reported to Konstitutionsutskottet by the Liberal People's Party leader Lars Leijonborg.[92] SD filed charges against the Security Police (Säpo) and the Department of State with the Justitiekansler and Justitieombudsmannen, alleging that the government's interference was unconstitutional.[93][third-party source needed] The spokesperson of the Green Party Peter Eriksson also expressed concern over possible government involvement in the event.

Electoral results


Parliament (Riksdag)

Election year # of overall votes  % of overall vote # of overall seats won +/- Notes
1988 1,118 0.0 Template:Infobox political party/seats
1991 4,887 0.1 Template:Infobox political party/seats Steady 0
1994 13,954 0.3 Template:Infobox political party/seats Steady 0
1998 19,624 0.4 Template:Infobox political party/seats Steady 0
2002 76,300 1.4 Template:Infobox political party/seats Steady 0
2006 162,463 2.9 Template:Infobox political party/seats Steady 0
2010 339,610 5.7 Template:Infobox political party/seats Increase 20

European Parliament

Election year # of overall votes  % of overall vote # of overall seats won +/- Notes
1999 8,568 0.3 Template:Infobox political party/seats
2004 28,303 1.1 Template:Infobox political party/seats Steady 0
2009 103,584 3.3 Template:Infobox political party/seats Steady 0

Party leaders

Other prominent party member

  • Sten Andersson (28 February 1943-16 August 2010)

References

Bibliography

  • Teitelbaum, Benjamin (2013). “Come Hear Our Merry Song:” Shifts in the Sound of Contemporary Swedish Radical Nationalism. Ph.D. Dissertation, Brown University.

External links

  • (Swedish) Sweden Democrats
  • (Swedish) Jimmy Åkesson's website
  • (Swedish) SD-Kuriren
  • (Swedish) Sweden Democratic Youth
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