The worst of Europe’s migration crisis is over. Fewer migrants are coming to seek asylum, and many of those who have had their applications rejected have been deported. Yet immigration continues to spark rancorous debate, over everything from economic dislocation, to crime, to social integration, reshaping Europe’s political landscape. On Sunday, it is Sweden’s turn.
Polls show that about one in five Swedes will vote for the Sweden Democrats, the far-right, populist, anti-immigrant party with roots in the neo-Nazi movement. The Social Democrats, the center-left party that has dominated Swedish politics for a century, will likely emerge as the single-largest party in parliament on Sunday, and the center-right Moderate Party is expected to finish either slightly ahead of or just behind the Sweden Democrats. (The Moderates are expected to cobble together a coalition government.) Sweden’s two establishment parties have refused to work with the Sweden Democrats, pointing to the party’s past.
But public support for the Sweden Democrats, as well as the persistence of immigration as an issue, means the party is sure to emerge a significant player after Sunday. The Sweden Democrats have pledged to end Sweden’s asylum policies, and make it harder for any newcomers to get jobs. This message has broad appeal across Europe, where the economies of many countries were battered by the recession of 2008 and crippled by the austerity measures imposed subsequently by the European Union. But Sweden is different: It largely survived the recession with its economy intact, and its generous welfare state appears robust. Sweden also has a history of welcoming refugees from all over the world.