Sweden’s immigrants turning their backs on country’s mainstream political parties

Thu, 15 Sep 2022 9:11 GMT
People with immigrant backgrounds voting for alternative political options in hope of being represented.
Sweden’s immigrants turning their backs on country’s mainstream political parties

People with immigrant backgrounds voting for alternative political options in hope of being represented
In Malmo, one of the most diverse cities in Sweden, there was a long line of people waiting to vote at the polling station in Rosengard district.

The Social Democrats have mostly ruled the city since 1919, and according to this year’s election count, they have held onto it, keeping all 20 of the seats they won in the city council back in 2018.

The big surprise in Malmo, however, was the success of the new party Nyans, which is set to become the second largest party after the Social Democrats in several immigrant electoral districts.

The party collected 30.9% of the vote in Rosengard just behind the Social Democrats with 38.3%.

Sead Busuladzic, Nyans board member and the party’s leader for Sweden’s southernmost Skåne county, said factors like the burning of the Quran and issues with the Swedish social services taking children away from their parents contributed to people voting for them.

However, he said the racism in the society was also a deciding factor for voters with immigrant backgrounds, as “they don’t feel like they belong in the country, they don’t feel that the parties represent them, so they don’t feel that they are involved in the politics,” he said.

According to Busuladzic, the Nyans party has tried to involve people with different backgrounds “so that they feel like Sweden is also their home and they feel that they should be involved in how the country is run, and so that they don’t feel like they are some kind of second-class citizens.”

Masoud Kamali, one of the world’s leading sociologists, who currently lives and works in Sweden, thinks that the established parties were unable to attract voters with immigrant backgrounds as they failed to address “the questions that are related to these marginalized areas.”

Since the far-right Sweden Democrats, “the racist party,” entered the Swedish parliament, “all the elections have been very much so influenced by the far right-wing slogans, right-wing programs, and anti-immigrant programs,” he said.

Kamali believes that even the ruling Social Democrats adjusted themselves to this racist discourse in the last and this year’s election.

He said that many researchers warned the government that this sort of rhetoric would cause people with immigrant backgrounds or people in marginalized areas to refuse to participate in elections and that they would seek alternative options.

“I know that for instance in Rosengard, in Malmo, Nyans received about 46% of the vote, which shows that people in marginalized areas are very disappointed by the mainstream parties,” Kamali added.

In the last two elections, the Social Democrats “failed” to address issues that affect immigrants and “they are even presenting these areas as a problem for the country as they are talking about hiring more police, attacking radicals, and attacking radicalization of people, so they have nothing to provide,” he said.

Kamali pointed out that people living in marginalized areas have turned their backs on the Social Democrats and have voted for the Nyans party and other parties because even “the Prime Minister of Sweden, Magdalena Andersson, just openly said in the media that she doesn't want ‘Somalitowns’ in the country, and this is just really racist.”

“This is something that the racist party Sweden Democrats and many other right-wing parties say.”

Not participating in election

In Sweden’s poorest districts of Malmo, Gothenburg and Stockholm, the turnout of those participating in elections tends to be low.

While doing research, Kamali spoke to many people in these areas and was told that “each four years, political parties come to us and want our votes, but when the election is finished, they are not going to do anything to make the situation better in the labor market, in the educational system and everywhere.”

Kamali, who is also an author and sociologist at Mid Sweden University, concluded that people were interested in political parties as voters, but not as people living there with “huge” problems.

Political parties are not doing anything about “structural racism, discrimination, and also the very low quality of life in those areas, law services and so on.”

This is a very well-known study by Kamali, but “it seems that it did not influence political parties to change their strategies,” he added.

Things to get worse for immigrants

Swedish politics changed when during the refugee crisis in 2015, about 170,000 people came to Sweden.

“We see that from 2015 to now, there is no party in Sweden that wants a better migration policy,” said Kamali.

“They want to have the same restrictive policy as the European Union.”

According to Kamali, political parties in the Nordic country are framing the discourse in a way that criminality for instance is something that immigrants imported from other countries.

“I don’t think people’s cultures and values should be an issue for a politician to talk about. They should talk about how to solve unemployment and how to solve other economic and social issues, but sometimes they talk too much about people’s backgrounds,” said Busuladzic.

He said that this is not the way to reconcile the country or “to try to build togetherness” as this way, he said, “they just polarize the country, and we oppose that, and that’s why we have formed this party.”

The right-wing parties who seem to have won this election are going to make life “even worse for people with immigrant backgrounds as structural racism and discrimination is going to be reinforced,” Kamali said.

Far-right ideology taking over

The far-right Sweden Democrats are now the second-largest party in Sweden and also the largest party in the right-wing government.

This means that they are going to have a huge influence in Swedish politics.

Busuladzic believes that the Swedish Social Democrats have gone too far to the right just like the Danish, hence they have lost the important immigrant votes.

“They should try and find issues that are important to this group. Instead, they have closed down Muslim schools. They have proposed some laws that right-wing parties have also proposed,” he said.

This is why many people have “turned away from the Social Democrats and voted for the Nyans party,” he added.

Did Nyans party decide Swedish elections?

The new party Nyans may have had a large impact on the parliamentary elections.

Sweden’s immigrants historically tend to vote for the Social Democrats, but this time around, Nyans took over a large portion of the votes in the municipal elections in Malmö and Gothenburg, and in the same district, "other parties" have received a large part of the votes in the parliamentary elections.

Anders Sannerstedt, a political scientist at Lund University, believes that their success has been at the expense of the Social Democrats.

"It is a concern for the Social Democrats, for many of those who are now voting for Nyans would otherwise have voted for them," he said.

Sannerstedt believes that the Nyans party mainly took votes from the Social Democrats.

"It is clear that it may have been taken from elsewhere as well, but the Social Democrats are the big party in these groups," he added.

Busuladzic said there has been a lot of negative focus on his party and that the large parties have tried to scare people into voting for them by saying that the far right could win and that this is going to be bad for them, “but we don’t see it like that because we see that the left party has used a lot of rhetoric that is not really good for this population, which wants to be included and not used as a bad example.”

According to the preliminary results, the coalition of the right-wing parties headed by the Moderates has secured 175 seats in the Swedish parliament, while the left-wing coalition led by the ruling Social Democrats has secured 174.

With 210 out of 212 electoral districts counted, Nyans received 2.8% in the Malmo elections, and it just falls below the required 3% to take a place in the municipal council in Malmo, according to preliminary figures from the Election Authority.


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