STOCKHOLM – Banking on concerns of immigration and rising unemployment, far-rightists are gaining popularity in Sweden, amid expectations of becoming the third party in the country’s coming election.
"Immigration is topping the agenda and this benefits the Sweden Democrats," Carl Melin, polling head at United Minds, told Reuters Monday, November 12.
Opinion polls have shown that the far-right Sweden Democrats (SD) is growing in popularity in the Scandinavian country.
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A survey by United Minds pollsters in Aftonbladet newspaper published on Monday showed that SD has about 11 percent support, double its showing in the 2010 election.
Other polls in the last few weeks showed a similar trend.
An October poll by Ipsos, published in Dagens Nyheter newspaper showed the SD at 8.5 percent.
"We may be entering a recession and this is a good breeding ground for parties like the Sweden Democrats," said Johanna Laurin Gulled, a polling manager at Ipsos.
The SD is notorious for anti-Muslim, anti-immigrant campaigns.
Immediately after their electoral win in 2010, the SD started working on imposing a moratorium on building new mosques in the Scandinavian country.
The party, whose manifesto describes Muslims as “seriously jeopardizing the Swedish nation”, has also sought a ban on face-veil and halting immigration from predominantly Muslim countries.
It opposes a panel recommendation that all major religions should be given equal time in lesson plans, saying Christianity should maintain a special status.
Muslims make up some 200,000 of the country's 9.5 million population, according to semi-official estimates.
But leaders of the Muslim minority put the number at 400,000.
Observers opine that economic woes and rising unemployment in Sweden are playing into the hands of far-right groups.
"There is a feeling of frustration in Sweden, that there is something happening in Sweden that we have to deal with but mainstream parties are not looking at it," said Daniel Poohl, editor of Expo magazine, an anti-racist publication that investigates far-right politics.
In Sweden, much SD support has been drawn from dissatisfaction with Prime Minister Fredrik Reinfeldt's centre-right coalition government, which is perceived by many voters as tired and out of ideas after being in power since 2006.
Over the last few months, Sweden's front pages have featured stories of layoffs from some of their most emblematic companies, such as telecoms giant Ericsson, and debates over immigrants.
People living in Sweden with foreign citizenship account for about 7 percent of the country's population.
A televised debate in October between party leaders quickly turned to immigration, benefitting SD leader Jimmie Akesson.
Polished and well-dressed, Akesson has helped improve the image of a party long perceived as dominated by right-wingers."They have no other solutions apart from isolating Sweden from the rest of the world," Foreign Minister Carl Bildt told Expressen newspaper last week after the publication of one poll.
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