Sweden is famous for its tranquility, but apparently it isn’t immune to the kinds of nasty budget fights we’ve come to expect from the U.S. Congress. Sweden’s governing coalition collapsed this week under pressure from the anti-immigrant Sweden Democrats. The sudden defeat shows the new power of the Swedish far-right—and their intention not to compromise in the pursuit of power. In an op-ed for the Wall Street Journal, the Cato Institute’s Johan Norberg writes:
The SD [the Sweden Democrats party]…focuses almost exclusively on immigration, and in an ugly way. SD was created in 1988 by people from Sweden’s neo-Nazi movement. They are trying to clean up their act, but no other political force dares work with them. […]The theory was that the SD, whose own budget proposal had earlier been rejected by Parliament, would abstain from voting on the government’s [budget] plan, an unwritten tradition in Swedish politics….But the SD broke with tradition and voted with the opposition. This wasn’t out of fiscal principle—the SD leadership said the party would have voted against an Alliance [center-right] budget, too—but to punish the government for not bowing to immigration restrictionism.
The Open Europe blog calls the phenomenon “Upside-Down Europe.” Scandinavia and the Baltic States have inherited the political infighting and budgetary malfeasance characteristic of the southern European Club Med. In response to changing demographics (Sweden saw its applications for political asylum, mostly from Syria, rise by 50 percent between 2013 and 2014), Scandinavian anti-immigration parties are surging, a big change in the political landscape.These populist upstarts, both from the Left and from the Right, already comprise an uncomfortable minority in the European Parliament. And while UKIP and the Front National don’t yet hold large voting blocks in their national assemblies, they too threaten to become like Sweden’s Democrats: too big to ignore, but too small to actually govern. The result will be unexpected coalition collapse in the unlikeliest of places, even in consensus-friendly Sweden.