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Swedish election result stalemate

The Swedish election result has produced no overall majority for the two main party groupings. The alliance parties (Moderaterna, Centerpartiet, Folkpartiet, Kristdemokraterna), have a combined strength of 49% in the Swedish parliament, the Riksdag. The Social Democrats (Socialdemokraterna) have done badly, with only 30% of the votes, a drop of 5% since 2006. This leaves them no longer the largest party, a historic change after more than 70 years. The Greens (Miljöpartiet) also part of the Red-Green alliance, have increased their share of the vote, and together with the Left (Vänsterpartiet), give the opposition a combined strength of 45.5%. The balance of power, 4.5% is held by the Swedish Democratic party (Sverigedemokraterna).

The latter party is roughly equivalent to the UK’s British National Party, and their presence in the parliament will be unwelcome to all the mainstream politicians, the more so as they hold the balance of power.

The  main issues in the election were tax, unemployment, especially amongst young people, sickness benefit, health care, and the shortage of housing at low rents.

The appeal of the Swedish Democrats, described as a protest party, is mostly in areas where immigrants have concentrated and failed to integrate. Their support is of course based in part on fear of Islam. Sweden has received large numbers of immigrants over the past thirty years. They are often conspicuous by their difference, since many hold to their customs – such as wearing of the veil or burka. Given the difficulties in learning the language, it is difficult for immigrants to obtain work.

There would be less of a problem if there were fewer obstacles to self-employment. Unfortunately, it is in the nature of the Swedish tax system that small businesses such as taxi driving and the restaurant trade are hounded by the authorities. The tax system is punishing for small businesses and the self-employed so people who don’t know the language, or English, who are locked out of the kind of work they might otherwise be able to do. Every so often the tax office has a blitz on restaurants and a few owners get sent to prison for tax fraud. But with extra high taxes of 25% on restaurants, people tend not to eat out, so that business is strangled at birth.

The result is to block off the traditional routes by which immigrants can engage in the economy and so many fall back on a relatively generous benefits system. Unsurprisingly, this has led to resentment, but during the election campaign there was little sign that any of the politicians had grasped the message.

The decline of the mainstream left, reflected in the drop in the Social Democrats’ vote, is part of an international trend. We would suggest that it is due to a failure to abandon obsolete and failed ideologies based on defective theory. The question is how many decades it will take for this realisation to sink in.