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Sweden, long thought of as a bastion of tolerance and liberalism, has awarded the far-right Sweden Democrats 5.7 percent of the vote in Sunday's elections. That party's former rap as "an outright Nazi party in the '90s" has foreign observers worried about a rising anti-Islam, anti-immigration groundswell in Sweden and Western Europe at large. Here's what foreign policy observers are saying:


  • What Do the Sweden Democrats Want?  Larisa Epatko at PBS explains: "[Jimmie Aakesson's] party wants radical curbs on immigration in Sweden, where 14 percent of the country's 9.4 million population are non-Swedes. During the 1990s, many people from the Balkan countries moved to Sweden during the third Balkan War. Since 2000, most immigrants came from the Middle East, Iran and Iraq in particular, creating a growing Muslim community in Sweden. Aakesson has called this Muslim population growth the greatest foreign threat to the country since World War II.
  • The End of an Era, writes Gilbert Mercier at News Junkie Post: "The election is an absolute disaster for the left-wing Social Democrats, who had been the country’s party of government for most of the last 100 years. Left-wing Social Democrats scored just above 30 percent of the ballots. It is the worst performance for the left since 1914. Dagens Nyheter, Sweden leading daily newspaper, called the election results 'The End of an Era', in today’s editorial headline."
  • You Can Thank Ads Like This For Drumming Up Anxiety, writes David Kenner at Foreign Policy: "Obviously, this ad is a testament to growing European fears of Muslim immigration -- but it's also a product of the global recession. As a counter shows the rapidly declining state budget, the elderly Swedish lady is overtaken by a throng of Muslim women, who are wielding baby carriages. The commercial ends ominously with one outstretched hand reaching for a lever that says "Pensioner," and another reaching for a lever that says (what Google Translate tells me is the Swedish word for) 'Immigration.' The clear implication is that there won't be enough money for both":

  • Europe Needs to Get Serious About Immigration, writes The Telegraph's editorial board: "The rise of extremist sentiment has been fuelled by immigration and has been exacerbated by the economic crisis; when unemployment rises, so does anti-immigrant sentiment. Underlying it is an increasingly ugly strand of Islamophobia. What is most worrying, however, is the inability or unwillingness of mainstream political parties across Europe to confront these issues. As we have seen in this country, the refusal of the political establishment over many years to conduct a mature debate on immigration has played into the hands of the British National Party. In France, President Nicolas Sarkozy is taking pre-emptive action against a resurgent National Front, which performed strongly in March's regional elections, with his expulsion of illegal Roma immigrants. However, Europe's leaders need to develop a more sophisticated approach to the many challenges posed by economic migration if the extremists are not to continue to prosper."
  • A Bad Time for Socialist Parties in Europe, reports Reuters: "The crushing defeat of Sweden's long-dominant Social Democratic party in Sunday's general election was the latest in a string of setbacks for European mainstream center-left parties." They go on to list a number of center-left defeats in Germany, France, Britain, Italy, Spain, Nordic countries, Portugal and Greece.

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