Sweden Democrats

Froma an October WaPo piece, “Behind Sweden’s warm welcome for refugees, a backlash is brewing“:

STOCKHOLM — The refugees dined by soft candlelight, allowing their cold, road-weary bodies to sink into plush velvet couches as they feasted on a spread of olives, dates and cinnamon buns.

Omar Hassan took one look at the cozy scene — the product of hours of effort by volunteers hoping to make the new arrivals feel welcome on their first night in Sweden — and knew he was home.

“The people of Sweden are very good,” said the grateful 34-year-old, fresh off a 4,000-mile journey from his native Iraq. “I want to make my life here.”

But behind the warm embrace, a very different reaction to refugees is brewing in Sweden. In this Scandinavian country famous for its progressive politics and unfailingly polite citizenry, a party with roots in the neo-fascist fringe has surged toward the top of recent opinion polls with a defiantly hostile message to refugees: Those on their way to Sweden should stay out. Many of those already here should go home…

The growing popularity of the far-right Sweden Democrats mirrors a backlash being felt across Europe as the continent reckons with a refugee crisis that has broken all modern records and shows no sign of abating. The impact can be seen in country after country, with far-right parties hammering away at authorities deemed too permissive in allowing those fleeing war and persecution to find a home in Europe…

Meanwhile, the backlash is already having an effect at the polls. In Austria, the far-right Freedom Party achieved its highest-ever vote share in municipal elections this month, while in Switzerland on Sunday, the ultraconservative Swiss People’s Party won a clear victory after campaigning against “asylum chaos.” In Poland, a nationalist party whose leader has warned that refugees will bring “parasites” and “cholera” to Europe is expected to triumph over the ruling centrists in a vote coming up on Sunday. Merkel’s approval ratings have dropped as Germany has accepted a historic number of refugees. Hungarian Prime Minister Viktor Orban has only been strengthened as his government has rolled out mile after mile of barbed wire to keep them out.

“In terms of popularity, the real winners of this crisis are almost exclusively on the right,” the Eurasia political consulting group recently concluded in a research note.

Perhaps nowhere is the phenomenon more striking than in Sweden. The country has taken in more refugees per capita than any other in Europe in recent years, and there has long been cross-party pride in Sweden’s widely lauded humanitarian response.

But now the Sweden Democrats have shattered that consensus — and are reaping the political gains.

“We need to send the signal that people wanting to come here are not welcome,” said Markus Wiechel, the party’s 27-year-old point person in parliament on migration.

Saying that, Wiechel acknowledged, would have made him a social outcast only a few years ago. Today, he said, the Sweden Democrats are treated “as saviors” for their dire warnings that refugees will destroy the country’s finances and poison Swedish culture with poverty, crime and an alien religion.

“Everything has changed,” said Wiechel, his blond hair slicked back and his eyes burning with intensity. “We’re more acceptable than ever.”

The polls bear that out: Surveys published late this summer showed the party emerging to become the most popular in Sweden. More recent figures place the Sweden Democrats slightly lower, but still pulling in well over the record 13 percent that it won in last year’s parliamentary elections.

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