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Sweden election: voters go to polls amid right surge

Sweden election: voters go to polls amid right surge

One hundred years ago this month, the Spanish flu pandemic wiped out up to 100 million people around the world. It was devastating, but the pandemic helped to create Sweden’s modern welfare state.

By – Europe

Here’s the latest from the Guardian’s European affairs correspondent Jon Henley, who is in the Swedish capital. Voters have said today’s general election is a “critical moment for this country.”

Outside the Hedvig Eleonora school in the prosperous Stockholm neighbourhood of Östermalm, Gabriel Kroon, 21 and sporting a Sweden Democrats 2018 tee-shirt, had one worry. “The only question about this election is whether the other parties will work with us after it,” he said.

Kroon, who is standing for the far-right party in local council elections, cut a lonely figure amid a long line of Centre and Moderate party conservatives.

But the Sweden Democrats were “making good progress” even in middle-class, urban areas like Östermalm, he said, and hoping for a solid 10-12% of the vote. “We’ll get there,” he said. “If not this time, then next time. They can’t ignore this many voters for ever.”

Others, however, were determined they would not. Harry Klagsbrun and his partner Marina Szugalski, who both voted for the liberal Centre party, said Sweden’s 2018 election was about the defence of liberal democracy: “One that takes into account the needs and the views of everyone, including minorities,” Klagsbrun, who works in banking, said pointedly.

Szugalski said it was “really dangerous not to understand what you’re actually voting for if you vote Sweden Democrat. But I think people are starting to see we are standing on the edge of a very slippery slope right now.”

Mikaela Lundh, 28, was equally forceful. A centre-right Moderate party supporter, she said this year’s vote “feels way, way more important than previous elections. This really feels like a critical moment for this country.”

While the Sweden Democrats would not enter government however well they did, with neither the established centre-right or centre-left blocs in with a chance of parliamentary majority, a strong showing would give the far-right party the power to block legislation in parliament.

“That in itself is harmful, because Sweden needs reforms,” Lundh said. “The government needs to be able to take decisions. We need to be able to act.”

For Anna Davidson, an educator at the Stockholm history museum, and her husband Viktor, a photographer, the environment was the number one priority. Both voted for the Green party. But both also considered their choice “a vote against racism”, said Anna.

“The Sweden Democrats are a racist party, of course they are. It worried me that they might do well. It worries me that this might be the first step towards their normalisation, that bit by bit, Sweden may be taking its first steps towards a government like Poland’s,” she said.

Vikto said immigration and integration, the Sweden Democrats’ potent electoral hobbyhorse, were “of course an issue. They need to be talked about, but just not in this way. Yes, they have caused problems for some people. But frankly, the people coming here face far, far bigger ones.”

Agneta, who declined to give her second name or say who she was voting for, was not so sure. “The number one priority is to get this government out,” she said. “They throw money at everything, but we see no results. Lots, for example, goes to immigrants – but what do we get back from that, really?”

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Polls have opened in Sweden’s general election in what is expected to be one of the most unpredictable and thrilling races in the Scandinavian country for decades amid heated debate on immigration.

Sunday’s election will be Sweden’s first since the government in 2015 allowed 163,000 migrants into the country of 10 million. While far less than what Germany took in that year, it was the most per capita of any European nation. It’s highly unlikely that any single party will get a majority, or 175 seats.

The latest opinion poll suggests that Prime Minister Stefan Lofven’s ruling Social Democrats will substantially lose seats but still emerge a winner with an estimated 24.9 percent of the votes.

The polls showed far-right, anti-immigration Sweden Democrats would get 19.1 percent of the votes.

Copyright 2018 The Associated Press. All rights reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten or redistributed.

Voters in Sweden appear to be split in an unpredictable general election that may turn into one of the most thrilling races in the Scandinavian country’s history for decades amid heated debate on immigration.

Latest opinion polls suggest the ruling Social Democrats led by Prime Minister Stefan Lofven would substantially lose seats at the Parliament but would still win ahead of the far-right and anti-immigration Sweden Democrats the popularity of which has steadily risen since the 2014 election.

Its strong rhetoric has shocked many Swedes. Voter Veronica Lundqvist said the party led by Jimmie Akesson is saying “awful things” about migrants, while Karl Ljung said Sweden has an “integration issue” with migrants that needs solving.

Sunday’s vote is first since the nation of 10 million accepted 163,000 migrants in 2015. While far less than what Germany took in that year, it was the most per capita of any European nation.

Swedish media are reporting that voters and journalists were harassed at several polling places by members of a neo-Nazi movement, including some running in the parliamentary election.

The Svenska Dagbladet newspaper said the Nordic Resistance Movement members entered voting stations and attempted to take photos of voters, voting slips and journalists.

The newspaper says such incidents have caused anxiety at balloting locations in Boden, Ludvika and Kungalv.

Svenska Dagbladet also reported that the far-right Alternative for Sweden party raised alleged election breaches by “shouting loud” on social media as soon as polls opened on Sunday.

Separately, Swedish tabloid Expressen interviewed a representative of the right-wing Sweden Democrats. Emilia Orpana said she and another party supporter were threatened by two young men who called them “damned racists.”

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Read more: From  2018/09/08

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