'Voters all over Europe punish incumbent parties’

The far-right Swedish Democrats have doubled their support in Sunday’s general election because voters want to see something different as such parties provide options for people who do not favor immigration, sociology professor Mikael Hjerm told RT.

The results of the September 14 Parliamentary elections in Sweden marked a shift of power, with the center-left Social Democrats achieving victory, getting 43.7 percent of votes. The far-right Sweden Democrats came third, receiving around 50 seats in the Parliament, with is double their previous results. The party has been strongly criticized because of its anti-immigration policy. The center-right coalition, which has been popular in recent years, is considered to be the biggest loser in the election.

RT:The Sweden Democrats doubled their support on September 14. How do you explain their soaring popularity?

Mikael Hjerm: There is a combination of things. One thing is that the things are going on for a long time in Europe – like the compression of the left-right scale where parties on the political left and right are compressing towards the middle, it diminishes space because a lot of voters don’t feel they have opportunities to vote. They feel like it doesn’t matter whether they vote for the left or for the right, they don’t have any options any more. So a lot of the votes are for the populists, they want a change, they want to vote for a different party and then they have found out that it’s the Sweden Democrats.

The Sweden Democrats and all these parties around Europe provide options for people who do not like immigration and immigrants, so they of course appeal to some of those people, and those people did not have a viable political option before these parties came around. So that’s a combination of explanations. And of course the rise of the Sweden Democrats can be partly explained by that. But also by things that the issue and the saliency of the immigration topic have raised in Sweden in the last couple of years. Immigration is far more salient in a political debate today than it was a couple of years ago. That helps to explain the lines of the Social Democrats.

RT:Among the major parties, why only the Sweden Democrats are against the current country’s immigration policy?

MH: Most of the parties unanimously said that Sweden wants open immigration laws, we want to open the country that would admit a lot of immigration, asylum seekers to help people, and the Sweden Democrats don’t want that. That is as simple as that.

RT:The Moderate party successfully steered the country through the 2008 financial crisis. Why have they lost the vote?

MH: It’s not so much they turned against them because you have to realize that the Moderates, they have been on this level of 20+ percent for a very long time, and the last election was the exception where they get a lot of votes. Also looking at all elections in Europe, the voters do punish the incumbent parties all over Europe. After one or two consecutive elections they used to be punished by voting them out. So this is a part of general trend in Europe: voters want to see something different, regardless of how they perceive the success or non-success of the incumbent party.

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