Swedish Prime Minister Magdalena Andersson is seen by moderates as the best hope of keeping a rival party with neo-Nazi roots out of government.
Others in Sweden are going to the polls tomorrow to elect the 349-seat parliament. Opinion polls suggest tight competition, with the odds of Ms Andersson’s centre-right coalition bloc to lead the next government appearing uncertain.
Her social-democratic group, which has dominated politics for well over a century and was once compared to Fianna Fáil in this country, faces the far-right Sweden Democrats, whose lives began with neo-Nazi connections their leaders claim no longer exist.
Sweden is known internationally for its focus on gender equality and feminism, but was the last of the Nordic countries to have a female prime minister, 40 years after Norway.
Ms Andersson, who was finance minister from 2014 to 2021, got off to a rather hot start to her role as Sweden’s prime minister last November.
She was initially chosen to replace her party colleague Stefan Löfven, who lost a vote of no confidence.
But she was prime minister for just seven hours before being ousted by another parliamentary vote. Days later she was returned to office.
Because of its roots in the neo-Nazi movement, the Sweden Democrats party has long been shunned by other mainstream parties, but it is now accepted by most of the centre-right mainstream.
The Sweden Democrats’ budget – written with the main opposition party, the Moderates, as well as the Christian Democrats – was approved by parliament last November, meaning Ms Andersson was constrained by the other parties’ spending plans.
She has also faced a bunch of other big challenges, not Russia’s war on Ukraine.
This has seen Sweden abandon 200 years of neutrality and pacifism, which were core values for Ms Andersson’s social democratic party, making it a constant source of tension.
Sweden now stands on the cusp of joining NATO alongside neighboring Finland, another traditionally neutral country.
The difficulties of the nationwide debate on the topic and the associated internal social democratic problems do not really make the topic a campaign item.
Added to this was pressure from Turkey, which had blocked Sweden and Finland from cracking down on Kurdish separatists in Sweden, which has a significant Kurdish minority, many of whom supported the Social Democrats.
The other voting issues are, as you might expect, similar to those we currently have across western Europe: an energy supply and livelihood crisis and the future funding of a comprehensive welfare state.
In addition, there has been an extraordinary increase in crime, particularly gangster crime, with a total of 273 shootings in the months of January to August this year, 47 of which ended in death.
Both Ms Andersson and her far-right rivals have pledged results here. The right has also promised better schools, more nuclear power and tax cuts.
Speaking to foreign journalists this week, Ms Andersson acknowledged the appeal of some of the far-right messages to people frustrated with the status quo and looking for change after eight years of Social Democrat-led government. She carefully avoided criticizing people who vote for the far right, insisting they were not fanatics.
But she was adamant that the far-right Sweden Democrats still had people with strong ties to neo-Nazi groups and other racist organizations.
She said the party has an inner core of people who have views they don’t often express publicly.
Ms Andersson said that just last week an employee of the Sweden Democrats invited colleagues to celebrate the Nazi invasion of Poland during World War II. This and other incidents showed that this group was no ordinary political party.
Everything now depends on the number of MPs in Sweden’s eight parties – four on the right and four on the left – to decide tomorrow’s result.
https://www.independent.ie/opinion/comment/swedens-first-woman-prime-minister-magdalena-andersson-faces-far-right-threat-in-weekend-election-41977611.html Sweden’s first female prime minister, Magdalena Andersson, faces a far-right threat in the weekend’s elections