Sweden on election night – Days of Future past

It’s election night in Sweden and, according to the latest polls, my country has chosen a future of sorrows past.

But before I get into all that, I should offer up some background for those of you not currently glued to the Swedish state-TV:

For the past eight years, Sweden has had a center-right government after almost uninterrupted Socialist rule. Four parties have governed together, forming the conservative coalition “The Alliance”: The Moderates (headed up by Prime minister Fredrik Reinfeldt), the Christian Democrats, the Liberal Party and the Center-Party. Much has happened In those eight years, and even though the conservative coalition came into power during the worst recession since the 30s, Sweden can now boast a GDP growth of 12.6%, a rise in disposable incomes of 20%, and the title of Europe’s most successful economy. This has happened after huge changes made to the public sector, cutting public spending from its previous level of 68% to about 50%, and making private options available in health care and education. Taxes have been cut in most areas and in some instances — such as inheritance- wealth- and property tax — they have been removed entirely. The most radical change has perhaps been the social security system, where bigger demands have been put on those out of work in order to receive their checks at the end of the month. After having been world leaders in disability pensioners and unemployed people being put in early retirement, the new conservative coalition changed the system to put those people back in the workforce, something that created outrage among a people used to generous benefits with little to no demands for performance.

Perhaps that is one of the reasons to why I am now watching my country choose to go back to Socialist rule. According to the latest polls, the Social Democrats will win this election, along with the environmental party and the leftist party (former communist party), and the former union boss Stefan Löfven will become Sweden’s new Prime Minister.

These three parties, calling themselves the Red-Green coalition, have run on a platform of no profits in education or health care, higher taxes, and added benefits. Basically, they want to overturn the harm that they perceive to have been done over the past eight years.

They will not be able to rule in the majority though. The biggest winner in this election will most certainly be The Swedish Democrats, the far-right party running on a platform of limited immigration. From 4,7% in the previous election, they will now reach double digits, thus giving them the balance of power in parliament. This should surprise no one, but seems to fill the entire political establishment with moral outrage. Sweden has set a record in immigration over the past 10 years, and the growing issues with Jihadi tourism, segregation, crime and a Muslim population nearing 10% have been the elephant in the room during this election cycle. The political establishment refuses to touch this issue, most likely out of fear of both losing a big chunk of voters and being labeled racist, a common occurrence in Swedish political debate. This silence has benefited the Swedish Democrat Party, and come Monday they will be the 3rd largest political party in Sweden.

One of the parties thought to enter parliament for the very first time is Fi, Feminist initiative, focusing mainly on issues pertaining to gender equality. They have strong opinions, but when it comes to fact-checking and foresight they seem to be coming up short; an independent researcher showed that if the Feminist Party gets all their ideas through, taxes would have to be raised by several hundred percent. However, their unorthodox ideas on military defense in times of great European uncertainty may be one of the ways they intend to save money. Feminist Initiative wants to scrap Swedish defense entirely because it says the military perpetuates violence and the idea that men are agents of aggression (which it says leads to more domestic violence). They also want “reeducation” for men that work within government media to make sure that they become aware of how they fit into the patriarchal system and how they can become more sensitive to the female plight.

Feminist Initiative, along with the leftist party, is the preferred party for the intellectual elite and they are both projected to have their must successful election ever. This may be indicative of the extremist trend we saw proof of in the elections to the European Parliament this May, where far left and far right claimed victory over the center-right establishment; but perhaps it also speaks to an ideology so engrained in the Swedish psyche that it always finds its way back to the ballot.

After casting my vote a few hours ago, I walked back home through a crispy city dressed for fall, and the anger I had previously felt turned into a somber sadness. Much like the Israelites, the people of Sweden stood at the Red Sea, fearful of freedom. But, unlike the Israelites, they are choosing to be slaves in Egypt rather than risk a treacherous trek. As Swedes we always have the option not to grow up, to be dependent from the cradle to the grave, as creativity is legislated out and everyone stays safely mediocre. We were shown an option, freedom was at our fingertips, but, according to the polls, freedom was an unwelcome visitor in this culture of consensus.

In four hours I will know what I already feel sure of: tomorrow I will wake up to a new country outside my window. Or no, that’s not quite true. It’s the country I grew up in, a country I prayed I would never see again.


Annika Hernroth-Rothstein

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