Jimmie Akesson, leader of the hard-right Sweden Democrats party (Photo by MICHAEL CAMPANELLA/Getty Images)

Vote 24

Sweden Democrats set to double its MEPs, say pollsters


With three MEPs in the current European Parliament, the Sweden Democrats look set to double the number to six in the June elections.

That is according to Kevin Cunningham, who has authored works for the European Council on Foreign Relations.

Another outlet predicting SD success is Oxford Analytica, which added that the party has seen its support skyrocket over the last two decades.

“[Sweden Democrats] had support levels of around 5 per cent in the mid-2000s, which has risen rapidly to 20-21 per cent in the latest [national September 2022] elections”.

Following that, the right-wing populist group is now the second-largest party in the Riksdag (Swedish parliament) with 72 members out of 349.

Only the left-wing Social Democrats, with 106 seats, are bigger.

Polling at 21.1 per cent to 21.4 per cent in February, the Sweden Democrats’ confidence and supply arrangement with Prime Minister Ulf Kristersson does not appear to have dented its popularity ahead of June’s European Parliament elections.

The party represents an increasingly common instance of modern European populism, combining elements of Euroscepticism with centre-right socioeconomic policy and counter-jihad rhetoric.

In November, party leader Jimmie Åkesson called for banning the building of new mosques and demolishing existing ones linked to “anti-democratic, anti-Swedish, homophobic and anti-Semitic propaganda”.

Over last summer, he fumed in a television debate about drag queen Miss Shameless Winehore receiving public funding to read to children. Miss Shameless pointed out she does not use her surname when narrating to kids.

Within the European Parliament, the party finds itself fighting the mainstream on some issues while supporting it on others — being vocal critics of the EU’s Green Deal while also virulently pushing for more and more European support for Ukraine’s defensive war against Russia.

The party is not perfectly comfortable with Sweden’s membership of the European Union. While, since 2010, the country’s Constitution has proclaimed: “Sweden is part of the European Union,” Åkesson and his party colleague Charlie Weimers MEP now want that sentence deleted.

“It signals that Sweden is prepared to leave as a last resort,” and that “Brussels cannot afford to lose more net payers,” they said in a February 13 piece for Stockholm’s Aftonbladet newsletter.

“Anyone who has negotiated knows that you have to be ready to leave the negotiating table in order to get the desired result.”

The pair have also argued that “new transfers of power, dramatically increased fees, or new EU taxes” should require a referendum in Sweden.

In the European Parliament, the Sweden Democrat’s expected rise comes as part of the growing popularity of the European Conservatives and Reformists (ECR) group, of which SD is a member and Weimers is vice-chair.

June’s elections are likely to bolster the number of seats held by the pan-European group, along with its attractiveness as a potential partner for European Commission President Ursula von der Leyen.

That bit is significant, with Weimers saying back in February that the Sweden Democrats could leave the ECR should Fidesz — the party of Hungarian Prime Minister Viktor Orbán — be allowed to join without first changing its more standoffish stance on EU support for Ukraine.

The rise of the Sweden Democrats also poses a particular challenge to Kristersson, as well as a boon to former PM Magdalena Andersson’s Social Democrats.

Although the Liberals are now a coalition partner of Kristersson’s Moderata Party, in a January survey, 36 per cent of its members said they would rather ally with the Social Democrats than a government that included Åkesson’s party.

Note: A previous version of this article incorrectly reported Charlie Weimers MEP as threatening that the Sweden Democrats would leave ECR if Viktor Orbán’s Fidesz was allowed to join the group. This section has now been changed to more accurately reflect his comments, which raised the possibility of a departure.