|Photo of a member of Sweden Democrats, 1996: Expo.|
Following the election, Sweden Democrats secured 20 out of the 349 seats in the Swedish parliament (Sveriges riksdag). 20 seats might sound negligible, but with only 20 seats, this party that describes itself as nationalist has become a key player in Swedish lawmaking.
I must confess - prior to Sunday's general election, I knew nothing about the ideology of Sweden Democrats. But after reading about the party, I'm convinced that this election signals a surge in xenophobia in Sweden.
Sweden Democrats make no secret of a xenophobic and discriminatory ideology which targets immigrants and ethnic minorities, including Sweden's Sami people (an indigenous ethnic minority group in Sweden). I won't dwell on the SD ideology, but it is worth reiterating that most of the party's beliefs are outright discriminatory and extreme.
Like many observant people who have kept a close eye on recent events in Sweden, including an increase in "white power" groups and the anti mosque demonstration in Gothenburg - Sweden's second largest city, I'm not surprised that a party with racist roots has secured seats in the Swedish parliament.
A lot more has happened, but these two instances clearly signaled a surge in xenophobia in Sweden.
Many Swedes, immigrants and foreign students in Sweden have expressed concern about this victory for xenophobia. In an article highlighting the reaction of some voters, published on the BBC website, a Swede (my classmate at Lund University) living in Norrkoping wrote, "I'm sad... but I'm not altogether surprised." Another voter in Malmö wrote, "... I feel that we are no longer the tolerant country we once were."
On Facebook, I was moved by the reaction of a foreign student living in Sweden. Following the election, the student updated his Facebook status with the following words: "Now that the Extreme Far Right Nazist party (Sverige Democraterna) has been voted into parliament, i guess it's time for me to flee the country... eller hur???"
Sweden is already tough enough for immigrants, many of whom meet unprecedented obstacles in the quest for acceptance and integration into Swedish society. With Sweden Democrats in parliament, minority rights and the rights of immigrants and asylum seekers in Sweden will dwindle.
History links Sweden Democrats to neo-Nazis.
Only time will tell what the historic election of September 19, 2010 will do to Sweden's reputation of promoting and protecting principles of human rights and equality.