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
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.
The Atlantic Wire is your authoritative guide to the news and ideas that matter most right now. Our team tracks newsmakers and opinions across the entire media spectrum: newspapers, web sites, television, radio and magazines.
But we do more than just collect information. By synthesizing, analyzing and summarizing what’s out there, and adding new information when we can, we are a news engine that gives you a quick and valuable account of the issues of the day.