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Why did the extreme right won the latest elections in Sweden?

Sweden has been one of the most progressive countries in the world since it became a full liberal democracy in 1921, when the parliament gained extra powers over the monarchy and women obtained voting rights. Ever since, the leftist Socialdemocratic party remained by far the largest political force and has ruled the country during 80 of those 102 years; in no other country in the world, the liberal left has been in power so much time. 

Among Sweden's exceptionalism, its territory has never been invaded by a foreign power since it was founded as a modern state in 1523; feudalism never developed there as it did in the rest of Europe, because slavery and serfdom were already abolished in 1335, so the country had high economic equality from the origin; and Sweden has been keeping a policy of neutrality in all military conflicts since 1814. Moreover, during the first half of the 20th century, Sweden became one of the richest countries in the world and introduced a generous welfare state that was financed with a heavy tax load.

These unique features of extreme pacifism, economic prosperity, left wing dominance in politics, and a strong protestant religious moral, made Sweden to start sponsoring the arrival of refugees in the country and embrace multiculturalism as a state policy since 1975, when the parliament, dominated by the Socialdemocratic party, voted a new migration policy that would open more the borders. By that year, immigrants accounted for just 7% of the population, almost all of them were from countries in northern Europe, and the total number of shootings nationally never surpassed five per year.

From that time on, a large but relatively secular and high educated influx of refugees started emigrate to Sweden mainly from Iran (Islamic Revolution), Iraq (Saddam Hussein's oppression), Chile (Pinochet's coup) and the Balkans (Wars of Yugoslavia). As a result, many neo-Nazi political movements emerged in Sweden, among them, the current extreme right party that won Swedish elections last week, named Sverigedemokraterna (Swedish Democrats, or SD), but those never gathered altogether more than a couple of thousand supporters. After all, according to values surveys, Sweden is one of the most secular and individualistic countries in the world, so nationalism has never been a big thing there.

However, by the late 00s, there was a long-term shift in the countries of origin of the migration flow, with a larger share of refugees with low educational level coming mostly from Muslim countries. Those were attracted to Sweden mainly because of high approval rates when submitting for asylum applications, and the very extensive social and monetary support once being accepted into the country.

Back then, the system gave to almost all refugees permanent residency permits, priority to get public founded apartments, indefinite monetary support to pay rent, and full access to the healthcare, sports facilities and school system, and generous unemployment and childcare transfers. Moreover, refugees had the possibility to bring many members of their family to live under social benefits, even if they were not able to support by themselves financially.

With the war in Syria, the number of refugees that came to Sweden, a country of 10 million inhabitants, reached all-time records in 2014 and 2015, when 250,000 asylum applications were submitted, the highest per capita for any country in the western world. At that time, Sweden was already experiencing a serious surge in gun related crimes, committed mostly by second-generation immigrants, whereas newly arrived refugees were responsible for 80% of sexual assaults at music festivals and public swimming pools.

Under the rule of the leftist socialdemocratic government, the police, media and civil servants admitted hiding on purpose those events and the identity of the perpetrators with the excuse of not giving force to 'xenophobic' vibes that could benefit the Sweden Democrats. Later on, in 2016, the left-wing government was forced to acknowledge that Sweden's capacity for receiving refugees was collapsing and introduced a more restrictive policy, so the number of refugees entering Sweden went down to 20,000 per year since then, which is still much more than the numbers in Denmark, Norway and Finland added together.

The government and traditional media kept denying that the surge in criminality and poor school results had something to do with immigrants, and instead pointed out that 'racism' was the biggest problem in the country. The traditional center-right parties had also difficulties with their credibility on that issue, because they also had favored a policy of big-scale immigration during the time they ruled Sweden between 2006-2014, and branded the SD party as 'Nazi'.

This made many ethnic Swedes distrust the 'establishment' and support the extreme-right party SD, which had been making a big effort to 'clean itself' by having a "zero tolerance policy against racist behaviors". Indeed, SD electoral support increased steadily by obtaining 2.9% of the votes in 2006, 5.7% in 2010, 12.9% in 2014, 17.5% in 2018 and 20.6% in 2022.

Publicly, many native Swedes expressed positive views about refugees and multiculturalism, but studies show that the same Swedes began to flee districts where more than 4% of the residents were non-Europeans. The data shows that the claims by the extreme right SD that the surge of criminality in Sweden has been provoked by the big influx of migrants during the last 40 years, and that the migration trend is a matter of concern, seem to be true:

• 90% of attempted murders involving a firearm were committed by a first or second generation immigrant, and 95% of gang members in big cities are non-ethnic Swedes.

• Sweden is the country that has taken more refugees per capita than any other country in Europe in the last 20 years, and the only one where firearm violence has increased since the 00s. Shootings have more than doubled during that time, reaching 400 cases in 2021. By now, with 4 deaths per million inhabitants per year compared to 1.6 in Europe on average, Sweden has become the most dangerous country regarding homicides by firearms, surpassing southern Italy and Eastern Europe. 

• People under 18 are increasingly becoming criminals, and children as young as 14 years old are being used by gang members to commit a murder, because Swedish criminal law does not punish minors with prison.

• The number of policemen, 2 for 1000 residents, is one of the lowest in Europe. In 1980, Swedish police resolved 80% of murder cases, while in 2020 this number had dropped to 20%.

• Currently, there are around 300 explosions per year in Sweden, many of them by hand grenades, a per capita level as high as in Mexico. On many occasions, criminal gangs use these explosives to intimidate public servants which are deciding on social benefit transfer cases, or to prevent their children from being taken into public custody once their life-style has been tracked.

• Car-burning cases by social unrest have increased five times in the last 30 years.

• In 92% of rape assault cases and 98% of gang rapes, the perpetrators were born outside Sweden. 

• Overall, according to registers from the police, people born abroad are 2.5 times more likely to commit a crime than people born in Sweden that have two native parents. For people born in Sweden with two non-native parents, it is 3.2 times higher. That is, second generation immigrants are more prone to commit a crime than newly arrived immigrants, which suggests that there are big problems of segregation. Additionally, when differences in age, gender and living conditions, the so-called socio-economic factors, are taken into account, this number decreases from 2.5 to 1.8 and 3.2 to 1.7 respectively, which means that nationality and ethnicity itself also explains a propensity to commit crimes.

• 50% of adult refugees arriving since 2012 have less than secondary education completed from their country of origin. Of immigrant children who come to Sweden at the age of 12 or older, 75% will not manage to finish high school. The underperformance of immigrants in Swedish schools is one of the reasons why Sweden has dropped more than any other country in Europe in the international PISA results.

• Physical assaults and verbal threats against school teachers have increased exponentially since the 00's.

• After 10 years of being in Sweden, 50% of refugees still haven't found a job on average. Overall, the unemployment rate for ethnic Swedes is 3%, whereas for immigrants it is 20%.

• A third of girls in Sweden with two foreign-born parents are forbidden to have a boyfriend and must be a virgin when they marry, and they are not allowed to choose whom they marry. Moreover, female genital mutilation is a common practice for immigrants coming from Africa. As Sweden prides itself of having high gender equality policies, those honor cultural practices are difficult to conciliate with a progressive agenda that would apply for the whole population.  

• Sweden had the highest rate per capita of Islamic fighters traveling to Syria and Iraq to join ISIS, and 10% of youngsters living in segregated suburbs support Islamic terrorism against the West. Notorious cases were the Ikea and central Stockholm terrorist attacks in 2015 and 2017 respectively, which were both committed by refugees against ethnic Swedes.

• Based on current unemployment rates and crime levels, immigration is affecting GDP per capita and public finances negatively. On average, under its entire lifetime in Sweden and after taking into account its tax contributions, a refugee will cost 7000 dollars per year for taxpayers, and it is 18 times more expensive to help refugees in Sweden than to help them in their own countries.

• With current levels of migration and fertility rates, in 45 years ethnic Swedes will become a minority relative to people with non-European background living in Sweden.

• Currently, 25% of the population is foreign born, 40% of the population aged 0-44 years old has immigrant background (first or second generation immigrants), and 45% of the entire population in big cities has immigrant background. In the southern city of Malmö, 65% of the children 0-4 years old are of immigrant background.

Last week, a political earthquake happened when the extreme right party SD was the most voted among the right-wing block that won the elections by 0.8% margin over the incumbent left-wing block. This is a major event taking into account the progressive tradition of the country and how the SD was labelled as a 'paria marginal party' just recently. Criminality, migration and energy policy are counted as the factors that made this shift possible, and it is expected that SD's policies will get through the new Swedish government. Among the most important ones are:

1)That minors can be punished with prison.

2) A sharp reduction in the number of people that qualify as refugees.

3) Because of the war in Ukraine, nuclear power will get more priority.

There is no risk that Sweden will become a fascist country. Instead, it is just catching up with Denmark, Finland and Norway, which already had governments in coalition with extreme right parties five years ago, and took rational measures to address the problems that indeed existed.

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