Sweden votes on Sunday in an election that opinion polls and analysts alike predict could bring a generational shift in the country’s political landscape.
The Sweden Democrats party, with roots in the neo-Nazi movement, have been polling as high as second place. However, no other mainstream party says they will go into government with them.
The ruling centre-left Social Democrats of Prime Minister Stefan Löfven have lost support in a dramatic fashion, as have the largest opposition party the centre-right Moderates.
Although the Sweden Democracts’ nationalist policies on immigration and the EU are predictable, their defence policies might seem quite familiar to many people in Finland.
If they got into government, there are plans for deeper Finnish military ties, and a cooler relationship with NATO.
“There is a need to develop Nordic co-operation in many respects” party leader Jimmie Åkesson said during a TV debate this week.
“We have talked a lot about defence cooperation and that it should be further developed. We have proposed a union with Finland as an alternative to NATO” he said.
Åkesson’s party would also like to raise Sweden’s defence spending to 2.5% of GDP. During the 2010s it plunged to around 1%. Other political parties have also pledged to increase defence spending which was rapidly reduced in an optimistic era of detente between the west and Russia.
Finland & Sweden: Similar Right Wing Messages
In many ways, the Sweden Democrats share a very similar political space to the old True Finns party – which split acrimoniously last summer into the Finns Party and Blue Reform.
Socially conservative, yet surprisingly centrist or slightly left of centre on other issues.
“The Sweden Democrats have been keen to place themselves somewhere in the middle of the political spectrum on issues that aren’t migration-related. You’ll often hear them describe themselves, somewhat provocatively, as a ‘party of the centre'” explains James Savage, CEO and Publisher of The Local Sweden, the leading independent English-language news outlet in Sweden.
“So while their views on migration, nationality and social issues are conservative, they’re closer to the Social Democrats on some issues, for example on increasing social benefits” he adds.
The Nordic neighbours have deepened their defence cooperation in recent years, and even signed a new agreement in July.
Finland and Sweden are both close partners of NATO, and while only around 25% of Finns say the country should join NATO – the figure is a little higher in Sweden – the Finnish statistics go up if hypothetically the Swedes decided to become part of the military alliance which includes regional neighbours Germany, Norway, Denmark and Estonia.
“On the question of NATO, the party’s conservative instinct to maintain Sweden’s tradition of neutrality dovetail with its nationalist instinct to avoid foreign entanglements. However, pro-Nato sentiment is getting stronger in the party as it grows and absorbs previous centre-right voters, who tend to be in favour of joining the transatlantic alliance” says James Savage.
Just like in Finland, the rest of the Swedish political parties are divided on the issue of NATO membership. Stefan Löfven’s Social Democrats have argued that international cooperation is good, but he draws the line at full NATO membership. Sweden’s red-green parties are also against NATO membership but other right-of-centre politicians are in favour.
Swedes In Finland Vote
Swedes living in Finland have already had the chance to vote in advance of Sunday’s election, at polling stations in Helsinki, Vaasa, Tampere and Turku.
Voter turn-out was reportedly brisk in the final days of voting.
“We have been seeing that people are coming to vote, there has been a great interest for this election and that is good” Sidal Günes, the head of Consular Services at the Swedish Embassy told News Now Finland earlier this week.