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Sweden Elects: The latest political news and the migration issue no one is talking about

The Local's editor Emma Löfgren rounds up this week's key talking points of the Swedish election campaign.

Sweden Elects: The latest political news and the migration issue no one is talking about
Centre Party leader Annie Lööf was an intended target of a suspected terror attack. Photo: Björn Larsson Rosvall/TT


Only two weeks left now!

Here are some of the political issues Sweden is talking about (and one of the issues no one is talking about) ahead of the September 11th election.

Nearly 300 Swedish election candidates linked to right-wing extremism

A new report by research company Acta Publica links 289 politicians running in the upcoming election to Nazi or racist views, including membership in neo-Nazi organisations, hate crime convictions, ordering Nazi propaganda, and having accounts or writing hateful comments on neo-Nazi websites.

The majority – 214 people – are candidates for the anti-immigration Sweden Democrats, 22 represent the centre-left Social Democrats and the right-wing Moderates and Christian Democrats have 20 each.

You can read more about the report HERE.

‘Troll army’ linked to Sweden Democrats

Left-wing Swedish newspaper Dagens ETC has broken a big story.

It reports that members of a secret propaganda group, or “troll army” as it writes, called Battlefield are paid by the Sweden Democrat party to spread online disinformation. An anonymous source claims that they sometimes receive their instructions directly from the top echelons of the party.

The Sweden Democrats have been trying to go more mainstream and distance themselves from their neo-Nazi roots in recent years, so let’s just say that reports of a group of keyboard warriors creating mayhem in social media on party orders aren’t exactly what they want.

Indeed, in an email to public broadcaster SVT, the party’s press office dismisses ETC’s article as “flippant and obvious activism”. But it does confirm that a group informally known as Battlefield used to moderate the party’s comment sections in social media.

Swedish party leader Annie Lööf target of Gotland knife attack

Annie Lööf, leader of the liberal Centre Party, was an intended target of the suspected terror attack at Sweden’s Almedalen political festival, the prosecutor has confirmed.

Theodor Engström, 33, a former member of the neo-Nazi Nordic Resistance Movement and a long-term psychiatric patient, fatally stabbed the prominent psychiatrist Ing-Marie Wieselgren in the main central square in Visby in July. But he has admitted that he had also meant to murder Lööf, who was only 40 metres from the scene at the time.

It’s hardly a coincidence that Lööf, whose party has taken a firm anti-racism stance during her tenure, was the chosen target. As the CEO of anti-racism organisation Expo writes, “the Centre leader is the great object of hatred of the Swedish far-right. In the end, the anger and hatred go from words to action”.

It’s difficult to imagine that Almedalen, a festival known for its openness where politicians mingle with the public, will ever be the same again.

The migration issue no one’s talking about

Immigration tends to be among the top ten of the most important issues in Sweden, when the voters themselves get to choose. A new survey by pollsters Novus puts immigration and integration as the fourth most important political issue according to respondents, behind healthcare (top), law and order (second) and education (third).

It strikes me that people often seem to assume that those who list immigration as a key issue view it negatively, but as the editor (albeit on parental leave) of a newssite that writes for immigrants, I would also list it as one of my own key issues, but for very different reasons. I wish more parties would tackle immigration and integration from that perspective.

The Local’s reader Ben Robertson writes about something similar in a new article about one of the migration issues that aren’t being talked about in the run-up to this election: “When it comes to migration policy, politicians may speak about the need to bring in language tests, or ensure that Sweden remains or doesn’t remain a country open to refugees, but not one is discussing the crumbling framework of the Migration Agency.”

Another reader told The Local’s new survey about their thoughts on the election: “I’ve found the focus on foreigners very confronting. Foreigners seem to be presented as the source of all Sweden’s problems. I worry this is a message that will impact my children.”

In the latest episode of The Local’s Sweden in Focus podcast, host Paul O’Mahony was joined by sociologist Andrea Voyer, journalism professor Christian Christensen and regular panelists Becky Waterton and Richard Orange. They spoke, among other things, about how Swedish party leaders miss the point when it comes to migration and integration.

It’s a really fascinating episode, do listen if you have half an hour to spare.

Don’t miss

Immigration and xenophobia aren’t the only issues that are being talked about in this election. Sweden expects energy bills to soar to record levels this winter, so don’t miss this interview with two professors about why electricity is such a big issue in this year’s campaign, and who is telling the truth about it. 

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Nobel laureate Ernaux warns of ‘ideology of withdrawal’ in Stockholm lecture

Nobel Literature Prize laureate Annie Ernaux warned Wednesday of a dangerous ideology spreading in Europe under the shadow of the war in Ukraine aimed at excluding society's weakest and limiting women's reproductive rights.

Nobel laureate Ernaux warns of 'ideology of withdrawal' in Stockholm lecture

“In Europe, an ideology of withdrawal and closure is on the rise, still concealed by the violence of an imperialist war waged by the dictator at the head of Russia,” Ernaux said in her Nobel lecture in Stockholm ahead of Saturday’s gala prize ceremony.

Ernaux said it was “steadily gaining ground in hitherto democratic countries.”

“Founded on the exclusion of foreigners and immigrants, the abandonment of the economically weak, the surveillance of women’s bodies, this ideology requires a duty of extreme vigilance, for me and all those for whom the value of a human being is always and everywhere the same”, the 82-year-old said.

A feminist icon, Ernaux was awarded this year’s Nobel in October for “the courage and clinical acuity with which she uncovers the roots, estrangements and collective restraints of personal memory”, the jury said.

Her writing is heavily drawn from her personal experiences of class and gender, often casting a critical eye on social structures.

In her lecture, she also touched on the protests in Iran that erupted in mid-September following the death of Mahsa Amini who had been arrested by the Tehran morality police.

Ernaux said she took to writing her personal experiences because “a book can contribute to change” and “enable beings to reimagine themselves”.

“We see it today in the revolt of women who have found the words to disrupt male power and who have risen up, as in Iran, against its most archaic form”.

She noted that growing up as part of the post-war generation, “writers and intellectuals positioned themselves in relation to French politics and became involved in social struggles as a matter of course”.

“In today’s world, where the multiplicity of information sources and the speed at which images flash past condition a form of indifference, to focus on one’s art is a temptation.”

She said she hoped that her Nobel Prize was “a sign of hope for all female writers”, who “have not yet gained legitimacy as producers of written works”.