ROBERT HARDMAN: Why is Sweden going staggering to the far right?

The police push back the protesters during a far-right campaign meeting & # 39; Alternative for Sweden & # 39; in Stockholm yesterday

You would never find a scene like this during a British general election. Outside a railway station in the suburbs of Stockholm, all the main parties have small cabins perfectly aligned as exhibitors at a trade fair.

Each one offers coffee, literature and a chair for those who want a longer conversation. Superficially, it's all very polite, very democratic, very Swedish, in fact.

Today, however, all attention is focused on one position. And there is a tense atmosphere. A young crowd, mainly students, has surrounded the stable of the Swedish nationalist democrats.

The police push back the protesters during a far-right campaign meeting & # 39; Alternative for Sweden & # 39; in Stockholm yesterday

The police push back the protesters during a far-right campaign meeting & # 39; Alternative for Sweden & # 39; in Stockholm yesterday

"Are you going to deport all the people like me who do not look white?" Asks Joel Svensson, 26, pointing a finger at a middle-aged man.

Half Colombian, half Gambian, Joel has lived in Sweden for 15 years, works in Foot Locker, speaks Swedish, pays his (strong) taxes and is increasingly agitated.

"Are you going to deport all the Muslims?" He shouts.

"Only those who do not have citizenship and do not obey the law," says the party worker. Two policemen appear in case things escalate but they do not. Eventually, Joel and his group leave but he is still angry. Sweden, he tells me, has become much more racist in recent years.

"Things are changing here and they want to blame someone." People simply do not understand that they need immigrants like me, "he says.

However, there is a similar sense of frustration in the cabin of the Swedish Democrats. "People break our brochures and tell us to fuck," says retired accountant Dan Strom, 69, a member of the party for three years. I've got used to it. But what really bothers people these days is the whole crime. "

Crime and immigration dominate an election so little Swedish that many people talk openly about a national identity crisis.

The Gangland shootings are so common that they are hardly news. A new trend for car-synchronized burning has been making headlines instead.

Everyone is blamed, though unjustly, for immigrants in a country where 20% of the population was born elsewhere. Now comes recent information (uncovered last month by state television) that rape is on the rise, that almost 60 percent of all convicted rapists since 2015 have been born abroad and that 40 percent had been in Sweden for less than a year.

It helps explain why the Swedish Democrats have gone so quickly from the margins to the main political current. Only three years ago, they were social outcasts. Now, they could be the largest party when Sweden goes to the polls on Sunday, while the center-left Social Democrats, who lead the current coalition government, are on track to get their worst result from before ABBA was born.

Although the roots of the Swedish Democrats are in the Nazi yobober during the eighties, they have managed to reinvent themselves as an authentic family voice of Nordic conservatism. The old logo of the fascist torch has been replaced by a pretty flower of hippy style, which gives your campaign a surreal feeling of soap powder.

Firefighters put out burning cars in the Stockholm suburb of Rinkeby after young people mutinied in May 2013

Firefighters put out burning cars in the Stockholm suburb of Rinkeby after young people mutinied in May 2013

Firefighters put out burning cars in the Stockholm suburb of Rinkeby after young people mutinied in May 2013

In the last elections, they doubled their vote and won 49 of the 349 seats in parliament. In tomorrow's elections, they are expected to win between 20 and 25 percent and they may well maintain the balance of power in a divided parliament where no party will have control.

The boring and dignified Swedish policy suddenly became alarming and interesting.

Because they follow the same pattern that we have seen throughout Europe recently, as anti-immigration parties wreak havoc in the Netherlands, France, Germany, Italy, Hungary, Austria, Poland and elsewhere.

Now it is happening in ultra-liberal Sweden, which has accepted more immigrants per head of population than any EU nation, 250,000 since 2015.

Last year, a terrorist attack in Stockholm, when an unsuccessful asylum seeker drove a truck through a crowded pedestrian zone, killing four, still resonates.

For many Swedes, however, this is only part of a larger problem.

As with Trump supporters in the United States, there are a large number of people who feel rejected by a complacent political establishment that is no longer on the same wavelength.

In the Stockholm suburb of Solna, I meet with Julia Kronild, the Democratic deputy from Sweden who would be Foreign Secretary if they ever formed a government.

Your CV is not what one might expect. A social worker before joining parliament in 2010, her political journey began while she spent a year and a half working for a charity in Papua New Guinea. "I was a nurse assistant and a teacher there, it was important for me to learn their language and their ways," she says.

Demonstrators against the Swedish Democrats and their party leader Jimmie Akesson while attending an election demonstration in Norrkoping yesterday

Demonstrators against the Swedish Democrats and their party leader Jimmie Akesson while attending an election demonstration in Norrkoping yesterday

Demonstrators against the Swedish Democrats and their party leader Jimmie Akesson while attending an election demonstration in Norrkoping yesterday

"I went back to Sweden and I could see that things were changing, we had immigrants coming here and everyone said we had to change our ways."

As a former humanitarian worker, Julia says she is totally in favor of foreign aid, but that she should seek asylum in the closest safe nation. "I've been in refugee camps and we have to spend more money in those areas, not here," he says.

"We need to eliminate the pull factors that attract people here, why is it cheaper for asylum seekers to get dental care than for the elderly?

Many dispute these statistics, along with so many other incendiary claims by the Swedish Democrats, but it is a story that has taken root.

For decades, the Swedish elections were all the same. The Social Democrats would win by a mile and continue to build the Swedish dream: raising taxes in exchange for welfare from the cradle to the grave and enough money for a modest holiday cottage on the coast.

It's the kind of utopian vision that Justin Welby, the archbishop of Canterbury, had in mind this week when he talked about raising taxes to make Britain less "unfair." The difference is that Sweden grew up accepting the idea that if you give most of your money to the state, the state will spend it wisely. In Britain, we want to differ. And now the Swedes are having their doubts, too.

"People used to have a very clear idea of ​​what it means to be Swedish," says Johan Hakelius, editor of the main news magazine, Fokus. "But now we have a political class that does not realize how elitist they are, people turn to the Swedish Democrats, not because they are racist, but because they see it as the only party that thinks like them."

The other parties accuse Sweden's Democrats of scare tactics. "They are painting a very dark image of Sweden, but we need to have faith in the future," says Annie Loof, the leader of the Central Party (center-right).

The protests take place a few days before the general elections in Sweden, which will take place on September 9

The protests take place a few days before the general elections in Sweden, which will take place on September 9

The protests take place a few days before the general elections in Sweden, which will take place on September 9

I met her at the studios of TV4, the Swedish equivalent of ITV, where four of the eight main leaders of the party came for an outdoor barbecue. Here, too, is Jonas Sjostedt, leader of the Left Party, who called themselves "The Communists" until 1990, another extremist party that enjoyed an increase in the polls. Former Volvo union delegate and follower of Jeremy Corbyn, Jonas tells me that he has Momentum activists on his campaign team and will speak at the Labor Party conference.

Maybe the Labor Party will adopt the last winner of Jonas votes: a plan to reduce the working day from eight to six hours (that should do wonders for the Swedish public sector bill). However, the main focus of the media in this debate is on the leader of the Swedish Democrats, Jimmie Akesson. At only 39, he joined the party as a teenager, sporting a cropped beard and Harry Potter glasses, and is cautious and tired of journalists.

Every day brings new scandals about his party, today he is a deputy who takes charge of his expenses, to which he responds that no other party is subject to the same scrutiny. I ask him how it feels to be the man who has made this the most non-Swedish choice in history.

"It's not my ambition to be that guy, they've given me that role," he says, but his message is intransigent: "If you're an immigrant, you must become Swedish and be Swedish." Rejects comparisons with other extreme European parties: "I think we have more than one Nordic society. I do not think I have much in common with Le Pen. [leader of the French National Front] o AfD [Germany’s hard Right]& # 39; – and try to present your party as a Swedish UKIP.

"I met Nigel Farage," he says, adding that he likes a pint of British beer and favors a referendum on membership in the EU, although "Swexit" is not a hot topic now.

The Swedes are not sure of being flattered or dismayed by the fact that the world is so interested in their choice.

Today, it's still a lovely place to visit, surprisingly expensive – £ 9 for a ham sandwich – but also obsessively proud of the house. Even walking around a council property in Rinkeby, the notoriously immigrant-only Stockholm district routinely described as a "forbidden zone," I can not find any graffiti. Also, someone has cut neat streaks on the community lawn. Only a few days before there was a shooting in the same place.

The ruling Social Democrats should be far ahead in this election, instead facing a crushing defeat

The ruling Social Democrats should be far ahead in this election, instead facing a crushing defeat

The ruling Social Democrats should be far ahead in this election, instead facing a crushing defeat

What makes this election even stranger is that the economy has a discourteous health. Unemployment is at a historic low. The social democrats in power should be at the forefront. Instead, they face their worst result since the First World War.

"Young people have just forgotten how hard life was and how much we have achieved," says retired therapist Inger Hettman, a desperate Social Democratic supporter with whom I meet in the city of Nykvarn.

I speak with a number of voters on both the left and the right who say they are considering voting for the Swedish Democrats.

Few want to be named, of course. But Leif, an engineer from Lulea, sums up a common vision. He says: & # 39; I think they're asking the right questions. I'm just not sure if they would give the right answers.

Back in Rinkeby, I ask the local MP why Sweden is so divided. Amir Adan, 33, is half Somali, half Swedish, and belongs to the moderates, conservatives of Sweden.

"Four years ago, we did not talk about immigration at all, while the only party that did was the Democrats of Sweden," he says. & # 39; We should all have talked more about that & # 39;

They are certainly talking about that now.

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