The Progressive Post

🇸🇪 A leftist win in a right-wing time

SWEDEN

candidate to the European parliament for the Swedish Socialdemocrates, president of the Swedish Social Democratic student federation 2021-2023
13/06/2024

Sweden is one of the countries where the left grew in the EU election. At the same time, the number of people voting decreased, and many voted for a different party than they would vote for in a general election.

Winter in Sweden was abnormally long this year, stretching from November to April. Then, on 1 May, the weather switched dramatically, quite similar to the population’s knowledge about European election. At the start of the year only seven per cent of the Swedes knew that there was an election in 2024. When we, the Social Democratic party, went canvassing in late April voters thanked us for informing them about the election. But, when the sun came out in May and election posters adorned every street corner no citizen could miss that there was an election on 9 June.

Regrettably, this did not motivate Swedes to vote. The percentage of the population voting in the EU election decreased from 55.3 per cent in 2019 to 50.7 per cent in 2024. As a candidate, I frequently met people on the campaign trail who had decided not to cast their vote. Their reasons varied but some arguments were more frequent than others. Some citizens thought that they did not have enough knowledge about the EU to have the right to cast a vote. Others explained that they no longer believed that democracy was the best option. In February, the annual Youth Statistics report showed that one in every five men between the age 15-24 did not agree that democracy is the best decision-making process. The participation rate in the latest general election also decreased, from 83.7 per cent in 2018 to 80.2 per cent in 2022.

Swedes who do vote in the EU election are generally more educated and have a higher income. These people vote more frequently for traditionally liberal and conservative parties. Hence, the result for the Social Democrats is lower in the EU election than in a general election. However, in this election, many far-right voters also stayed at home. The Sweden democrats saw their first decrease in support in any election (13.2 per cent, down 2,2 per cent). At the same time the Social Democrats support increased, as a first for an EU election (24.7 per cent, up 1,3%).

Two issues dominated the election. Firstly, in early May one of Sweden’s biggest TV channels published a program about the Sweden democrats’ communications department. A journalist went undercover and started to work for the party. By using a hidden camera, the reporter proved that the Sweden democrats use anonymous social media accounts to spread disinformation and mock political opponents. This included left-wing politicians as well as right-wing. In turn, this negatively affected the Swedish government which depends on the support of the Sweden Democrats. The party chose an aggressive response, calling it an attack from the left-wing establishment. This response was viewed as extreme and did not land well. However, how the scandal affected the party’s election result is hard to conclude for the moment.

Secondly, the most important issue in Sweden was the climate issue. Many people who, in a general election, would vote for the Social Democrats voted for the Green party in this election. Furthermore, the Green party’s candidates are a lot more well-known and profiled on the climate issue than the Social Democrat candidates. The Left party also had a much more well-known candidate. This former party leader campaigned on more support for Gaza and an eminent cease-fire. This was also the Social Democrats’ position. However, some voters did not think it was clear or fast enough. As a result, the Green’s (13.9 per cent, up 2.4) and the Left’s (11,1 per cent, up 4,3) support increased more than that of the Social Democrats.

In the end, the EU election was a big win for the opposition parties. Together they gathered 57 per cent of the votes. Unfortunately, only one mandate out of 21 was moved from the right to the left. This will properly have a small effect on the EU. The election’s effect on domestic politics will be bigger. The EU election proved that the far-right party can be beaten. The Social Democrats’ organisation is stronger and more people are ready to work hard to ensure a progressive government after the next Swedish general election in 2026.

Photo Credits: Shutterstock.com/Schager

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