The Sweden Democrats (or Swedish Democrats, Swedish: Sverigedemokraterna, SD) is a political party in Sweden, founded in 1988. SD describes itself as a nationalist movement although others use the term far-right. Since 2005, its party chairman is Jimmie Åkesson, while Björn Söder is the party secretary and parliamentary group leader. An Anemone hepatica flower (blåsippa) is the official SD logo since 2006.
The Sweden Democrats claim 5,846 members in 2010. SD is divided in eighteen district party associations throughout Sweden, as well as in various local or municipal associations. Young members are organised in the Sweden Democratic Youth (SDU), founded in 1998. The party also distributes a newspaper to its members, SD-Kuriren. Since 2005 the paper has been printed in tabloid format, and approximately 28,000 copies have been published.
In the 2010 general election, the Sweden Democrats for the first time crossed the four percent threshold necessary for parliamentary representation. This increase in popularity has been compared by international media to other similar anti-immigrant movements in Europe. The party polled 5.7% and won 20 parliamentary seats. According to the February 2011 poll of United Minds, SD reached 8.5%, which represented an increase of 1.3% compared to the precedent analogue poll.
The Sweden Democrats was founded on 6 February 1988 as a successor to the Sweden Party, which in turn had been founded in 1986 by the merger of Bevara Sverige Svenskt (BSS) and a faction of the Swedish Progress Party. While opinion on the early SD vary, it is generally agreed (including by the Swedish Committee Against Antisemitism and Expo), that the SD has never been a Nazi party.
From 1995, the party's new leader Mikael Jansson (previously a member of the Centre Party) strove to make the party more respectable, and introduced a uniform ban in 1996. During the 1990s, the party became more influenced by the French National Front, as well as the Freedom Party of Austria, Danish People's Party, German The Republicans and Italian National Alliance. SD received economic support for the 1998 election by the French National Front, and was active in Le Pen's Euronat from the same time. In 1999, SD however left its membership in Euronat to its youth organisation. In 2001, the more radical faction in the party was expelled, and broke out and established the National Democrats.
Since the 2000s, the so-called "Scania gang" or "fantastic four"; Jimmie Åkesson (party leader since 2005), Björn Söder, Mattias Karlsson and Richard Jomshof continued the moderation policy which included ousting openly extremist members. Before the 2002 election, former Moderate Party MP Sten Andersson defected to SD, citing that the party had gotten rid of its extreme right elements. In 2003, the party declared the Universal Declaration of Human Rights to be a cornerstone of its policies. In 2006, the party changed its logo from the torch, to featuring a Anemone hepatica, reminiscent of the party's very first logo.
For the 2010 general election, SD for the first time won representation in the Swedish parliament, with 5.7% of the vote and 20 MPs.
Ideology and political positions
The Sweden Democrats' party programme is based on nationalism and national conservatism. The Sweden Democrat's ideological pillar is described in their manifesto first published on 4 May 2003 during Jansson leadership and then revised on 8 May 2005 (one day after Åkesson became the new chairman).
The Sweden Democrats believe that the current Swedish immigration and integration policies have been a failure. SD feels that the current situation with a large number of immigrants living in cultural enclaves is not beneficial for the country. The immigrants themselves are rootless, there have been rising antagonistic tensions between various population groups (socially, ethnically, religiously and culturally), and the immigration in itself, SD says, has caused social and economic strains on the country.
As the party considers Sweden to have had too much immigration in later years, which it claims have seriously threatened national identity and societal cohesion, SD wants to reinstate a common Swedish national identity which in turn would mean a stronger inner solidarity. SD rejects the policy of multiculturalism, but accepts a multiethnic society where cultural assimilation is promoted. SD wishes to strongly restrict immigration, and give generous support for immigrants who instead of wanting to assimilate in Sweden voluntarily prefer to emigrate back to their country of origin. As more state funds are made free from funding mass immigration, SD believes that Sweden in turn will have the possibility to better help refugees in their own nearby locations.
SD has referred to the recommendations from the United Nations High Commissioner for Refugees (UNHCR) which state that the return of refugees should be the solution to refugee problems. Former party secretary between 2003–2004, Torbjörn Kastell had said in 2002 that the party wanted "a multicultural world, not a multicultural society. In a 2008 survey, a significant minority of 39 percent of all Swedes thought that there were "too many foreigners in the country", and in 2007 a survey showed that 49 percent of all Swedes wanted to restrict the number of asylum seekers. In recent years, SD has tried to approach the immigration policy of the Danish People's Party, which since 2001 has given parliamentary support for the current Danish liberal/conservative government in return for a tightening of Danish immigration policies and stricter naturalization laws.
According to Aftonbladet, 14% of SD members are of immigrant origin, which corresponds to the proportion of foreign-born in Sweden. For the 2010 election in the municipality of Södertälje (Stockholm County), SD was the only party with a majority of immigrants on its electoral list, mostly Chaldean Christians from the Middle East. Polling 7.31% (3,447 votes), SD's municipal list in Södertälje got 5 of the 65 municipal seats. Nader Helawi and 4 other Swedes from immigrant origin will sit as municipal councilors.
The Sweden Democrats are critical of the special rights and privileges given to the indigenous Sami people of northern Sweden. In 2008, the party accepted a motion against the rights to reindeer husbandry. They have argued that those "who do not involve themselves with reindeer husbandry are treated as second class citizens" and that the privileges the herders have are "undemocratic." They want to restructure the councils and funds that are used to benefit the Sami population, so that they are used "regardless of ethnic identity and business operations." They also want to abolish the Sami parliament which claims special privileges for an "ethnic minority while the society claims equal rights for others."
Law and order
The Sweden Democrats advocate national responsibility and social justice. SD wishes to reinstate the possibility for life imprisonment for the worst crimes and to repatriate foreign citizens found guilty of serious crime (which already is general practice in Sweden, though the repatriation is usually limited to a few years after which the offenders are welcome to reapply for asylum). SD also wants to establish a public register of convicted pedophiles.
The Sweden Democrats in their foreign policy reject joining the Economic and Monetary Union of the European Union, are opposed to the Accession of Turkey to the European Union and want to renegotiate Swedish membership of the European Union.
The Sweden Democrats are in favour of the traditional nuclear family and believe that every child should have "one father and one mother", according to their website. According to the Social Democrat Björn Andersson's blog, SD is opposed to adoption rights for homosexual couples, and to letting lesbian women become inseminated. Although SD strongly criticizes what it calls a Homosex Lobby, the party claims that it is not hostile to homosexuals. Further, party leader Jimmie Åkesson expresses concern over that the increasing Islamization of Sweden will eventually lead to the rights of sexual minorities being violated.
The Sweden Democrats' response
The party dissociates itself from all forms of totalitarianism and racism and states that it considers the 1948 Universal Declaration of Human Rights a fundamental component of its politics. Furthermore, the party says that its fundamental goal is to combine the principle of social and economic justice with traditional conservative values. For this reason, the party believes that it is not easily pinpointed on the traditional left-right political spectrum in Swedish politics. Also, the Sweden Democrats say they have expelled all openly extremist members from the party, and refuse membership to anyone who has extremist views. The Sweden Democrats have complained of a media boycott, which they say has resulted in constant negative characterisations of the party.