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    Crime, far-right set tone in Swedish nail-biter vote

    STOCKHOLM (AFP) – Sweden’s right-wing parties hope to unseat the ruling Social Democrats in tomorrow’s general election, relying for the first time on far-right support in a tight race where crime tops the agenda.

    The anti-immigration and nationalist Sweden Democrats were long treated as pariahs on the Scandinavian country’s political scene, but they have gradually been welcomed into the right-wing bloc in the past few years.

    Recent opinion polls have suggested they could surge to become the second-biggest party in Parliament – meaning their backing will be essential if the right wants to form a government.

    Sweden, currently in the delicate process of joining NATO, has since 2014 been governed by the Social Democrats which have dominated Swedish politics since the 1930s.

    Prime Minister Magdalena Andersson, who took over the post just nine months ago after seven years as finance minister, enjoys strong support among voters.Some 55 per cent want her to remain in the job, compared to 32 per cent for her challenger from the conservative Moderates, Ulf Kristersson, according to a poll from late August.

    A tent for a Swedish political party set up for an election event. PHOTO: AP

    Andersson has earned voters’ respect for steering the country with a steady hand, leading it into a long-unthinkable NATO membership application in May following Russia’s invasion of Ukraine.

    The election campaign has been dominated by issues close to right-wing voters, with crime, immigration and skyrocketing electricity prices overshadowing the welfare state and the economy.

    “Inflation has soared and the same is true for crime and shootings, and these are contextual factors that should benefit the right-wing opposition,” Patrik Ohberg, a University of Gothenburg political scientist, told AFP.

    Sweden has struggled to combat escalating gang shootings attributed to battles over the drugs and weapons market, and the country now tops European statistics for firearm deaths.

    While the violence was once contained to locations frequented by criminals, it has spread to public spaces such as parks and shopping centres, sparking concern among ordinary Swedes in a country long known as safe and peaceful. Since January 1, 48 people have been killed by firearms in Sweden, three more than in all of 2021.

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