Sweden swings to the right due to fears surrounding mass immigration and the generous welfare system.
The fears over the negative effects of globalisation, a failure to integrate ethnic and religious minorities and their burden on the welfare state have boosted right wing and anti-establishment parties across the western world. Now polls in Sweden are indicating that 20% of the population is likely to back one of those parties in their General Election that is being held tomorrow.
Online surveys indicate that the anti-Eu and anti-immigration party Sverigedemokraterna (Sweden-Democrats) may overtake the Social Democrats, who have dominated the political landscape for decades, as the largest party.
One municipation they are expected to do particularly well is Ljusnarsberg, where they won a quarter of the vote in 2014, double the national average, according to Reuters.
Many inhabitants of this once-booming region, that is historically a mining district, feel uncomfortable about the high number of asylum seekers that arrived since 2015. Sweden has accepted the highest amount of migrants per capita of any European country.
Some also feel that Sweden’s generous welfare system has left them behind.
“I think people here want to see a change, they want society to be like it used to be” said Mats Larsson, the Sweden Democrats top politician in Ljusnarsberg.
Most people in the county reside in Kopparberg, the county’s only sizable town, where a picturesque 17th century church stands as a visual reminder of the region’s rich past, that was built on the copper and iron mines.
The mines are now gone – the last one closed mid 1970’s – unemployment at the end of 2017 was nearly 13% double that of the national average. Many residents live on sickness benefits, thus masking the figure of those relying on welfare.
“The 70’s and 80’s where a fantastic time to grow up here in this county. Now everything is falling to pieces.” Said Leif Danielsson , a 53 year old businessman in Kopparberg.“Houses are rotting, some places are overgrown with weeds. If you have any education or contacts, you leave”
The population has roughly halved in the last 50 years, and many services have been centralized to Orebro, an hour’s drive of Kopparberg.
When Sweden took in 163,000 asylum seekers in 2015, 1,200 of them were assigned around Ljusnarsberg, the highest concentration compared to the population. Many of these new arrivals were unaccompanied minors, stretching services to the limit.
Personal assistant Ulrika, who declined to give her surname, said that since the arrival of the asylum seekers, women are afraid to walk the streets at night “there are lots of robberies. I think a lot of it is to do with immigration” she said.
For many years the area was a bastion of the Social Democrats. The local swing to the right illustrates election themes of asylum and a split between poor rural and suburban areas that house immigrants, and wealthy places like Stockholm.