GZERO Media logo

Sweden In Pieces

Sweden In Pieces

In Sweden’s national elections over the weekend, the anti-EU, anti-immigrant Sweden Democrats continued their political rise, while the main center-left and center-right blocs suffered. Full tallies are here, but here are three quick thoughts on what this election tells us about the shifting political winds in Europe:


Right wing populism can thrive even where the economy is strong.

Explanations for the rise of populist, anti-establishment politics often look at income inequality, slow economic growth, or weak social safety nets. Sweden has none of those problems. The economy is growing faster than the EU average, and its society is among the most equal in Europe. Unemployment is low, the government runs a budget surplus, and social services are expansive. So what’s going on? Well, the government’s generosity is, in fact, precisely the reason for the backlash against foreigners. When the government does so much for a society, the question of who gets to belong to that society can become controversial very easily.

In recent years, Sweden has accepted more migrants per capita than just about any other EU country (see graphic below). And because Swedish policies give huge benefits to migrants while also (because of strong unions) making it difficult for them to find jobs, the Sweden Democrats have ably made the case to many voters that refugees are scarfing down a disproportionate share of the country’s generous social benefits without integrating or paying their way.

Sweden’s experience points to an uncomfortable question that voices on the right are posing in some of Europe’s most prosperous democracies: can a generous welfare state continue to coexist with liberal immigration policies?

But Sweden's election is about something more than immigration.

The leading losers in this election were the top establishment parties. Yes, the governing center-left Social Democrats came in first, but they rang up their worst performance in more than 100 years, costing them 12 spots in the 349-seat legislature. The center-right Moderates who lead the opposition, meanwhile, lost 14 seats.

But while the anti-immigration Sweden Democrats picked up 13 seats, an increase of 16 seats went to the socialist-leaning Left Party (+7 seats) and the centrist Centre Party (+9), neither of which campaigned against immigrants. Both actually proposed better ways to integrate immigrants.

So while the rise of the anti-immigrant, euroskeptic far-right is one story, Sweden’s election falls into a broader narrative that we’ve seen in elections in France, Germany, and Italy—as well as further afield in Mexico and Pakistan—in the past 18 months: leading establishment parties and traditional party blocs are fading fast.

There are no good options to form a government.

As of this writing, the three party center-left bloc (led by the Social Democrats) has a razor-thin margin over the center-right bloc of four parties, led by the Moderates. Both blocs are far short of a majority, and overseas vote tallies could affect the final count. It will probably take weeks to form a government, as neither of the two main blocs wants to work with the Sweden Democrats, but they will also have a hard time burying decades-old disagreements. While it’s nearly impossible to imagine the center-left working with Sweden Democrats, a more interesting choice awaits the center-right Moderates. Party leader Ulf Kristersson says he won’t reach out to them. But will he change his mind if inviting that party to join his bloc is the only way he can form a government?

The bottom-line: These results are more a rejection of the establishment than a clear call for new immigration restrictions. Yes, the Sweden Democrats gained 13 seats, but three small parties with a very different attitude toward migrants gained a total of 23 seats. The fragmentation of Sweden’s politics is a bigger story than any lunge to the far-right.

The role of the public library has evolved over time. As we move online at an even faster rate, knowledge, entertainment and opportunities for education and employment are found on the internet. Those living in well-connected, affluent places may have come to take internet access for granted. But there is a digital divide in the U.S. that has left people at a disadvantage – particularly since the arrival of COVID-19.

Finding ways to overcome that divide in a sustainable, community-led way could help bring the benefits of the internet to those who need it most. One solution is to use technologies such as TV white space to facilitate wireless broadband – as Microsoft's Airband Initiative is doing. To read more about Microsoft's work with public libraries, visit Microsoft On The Issues.

Who does Vladimir Putin want to win the US election? Given the Kremlin's well-documented efforts to sway the 2016 vote in Donald Trump's favor, it's certainly a fair question. And while there's no solid evidence that Russian interference had any decisive effect on the outcome four years ago, the Trump administration itself says the Kremlin — and others — are now trying to mess with the election again.

So let's put you in Vladimir Putin's size 9 shoes as you weigh up Donald Trump vs Joe Biden while refreshing your own personal PyatTridsatVosem (FiveThirtyEight) up there in the Kremlin.

More Show less

"The 'American exceptionalism' that I grew up with, the 'American exceptionalism' of the Cold War…I do think has outlived its usefulness." Those words coming from Anne-Marie Slaughter, a former top State Department official under President Obama, indicate how much the world has changed in the past few decades. Her conversation with Ian Bremmer is part of the latest episode of GZERO World.

Watch the episode: How a "President Biden" could reshape US foreign policy

Less than a week out from Election Day, 66 million Americans have already cast their ballots, and many of those are people who are voting "early" for the first time because of the pandemic. In fact, the early vote total alone this year is already equal to nearly half of all ballots cast in the 2016 general election, suggesting that 2020 turnout could reach historic levels. Most important, however, is how things are playing out in key battleground states where the outcome of the US election will be determined. In Texas, for instance, a huge surge in early voting by Democrats this year has raised the possibility that a state which has been won by Republican candidates since 1976 could now be up for grabs. Here we take a look at early voting in battleground states in 2020 as compared to 2016.

In a national referendum on Sunday, Chileans overwhelmingly voted in favor of a new constitution. But, why are people in this oasis of political stability and steady economic growth in South America willing to undo the bedrock of the system that has allowed Chile to prosper for so long?

More Show less
UNGA banner

GZEROMEDIA

Subscribe to GZERO Media's Newsletter: Signal

Cities on the frontlines

Living Beyond Borders Articles