The Rise of Nationalism in Sweden and the 2018 General Election

The Rise of Nationalism in Sweden and the 2018 General Election

Michele C. Perles, Staff Member

On September 9th 2018, Sweden had one of the most unique elections in its history. In the highest voter turnout since 1985[1], the Swedish people destabilized their own government by not electing a majority party. One of the driving forces of the result was the rise of the Sweden Democrats, a party based on a strong platform of nationalism.

After the 2015 refugee crisis in Europe, Sweden had the most asylum seekers of any country in the world, in proportion to their population.[2] As a result, immigration has become a top political issue[3], and the Sweden Democrats have become a more popular party.[4] Originally developed from the neo-Nazi movement, in recent years the party has focused their platform on the message that the increase in refugees will threaten Sweden’s generous welfare state.[5] At points during summer 2018, polls projected the Sweden Democrats could win over 25% of the vote in the 2018 general elections.[6]

Swedish general elections are held to elect members of the decision-making body, the Riksdag.[7] It is comprised of 349 representatives, elected through proportional representation.[8] A party must receive at least four percent of the vote during an election to come into the Riksdag.[9] After the votes are counted, the 349 seats are distributed among the parties as accurately as possible.[10]

After the 2018 general election, the Swedish Social Democrats won the largest portion of votes, 28.4%, their lowest since 1908.[11] For the past 101 years, the center-left Social Democrats have been the largest party in Sweden.[12] The center-right Moderates won the next largest portion, 19.8%.[13]

Although the Sweden Democrats won only 17.6% of the vote, they still have a large enough portion of representatives to have an impact on decision making.[14] Their position, as the third largest party, effectively deprives both of the other major parties from having a majority.[15] The depravation of a majority forces the other two parties to negotiate more aggressively with each other, or to include the Sweden Democrats in their proposals.[16] Even through the party preformed poorer than previous projections, the 2018 election has still netted 62 representatives and cemented them as a necessary negotiation partner in Swedish politics.[17]

[1] Statistics Sweden, (Nov. 21, 2018)

[2] George Arnett, Which EU Counties Had the Most Asylum Seekers?, The Guardian (May 11, 2015)

[3] Jon Henley, Sweden’s Elections: Everything You Need to Know, The Guardian (Sep. 5, 2018)

[4] Id.

[5] Id.

[6] Id.

[7] Elections to the Riksdag, Sveriges Riksdag (Mar. 16, 2018)

[8] Id.

[9] Id.

[10] Id.

[11] Jack Schofield, Three Months After the Election, Here’s Why Sweden Won’t Have a Government for Christmas, The Telegraph (Dec. 23, 2018)

[12] Id.

[13] Atika Shubert, Linnea Wannefors & Angela Dewan, Swedish Election Deadlock as Far-Right Party Makes Gains, CNN (Sep. 10, 2018)

[14] Michael Barrett, What Next for Sweden After Election Nailbiter?, The Local (Sep. 10, 2018) .

[15] Id.

[16] Id.

[17] Schofield, supra note 11.