The rise to royal power of populist, anti-immigration Swedish Democrats following Sunday’s election has civil rights groups and many immigrants concerned about what the future may hold for a country long known for its tolerance and openness.
Social Democrat Prime Minister Magdalena Andersson resigned on Thursday, leaving Moderate Party leader Ulf Kristersson now to try to form a new government. He will not be able to do it without the support of the Sweden Democrats, who have become the second largest party, with 20.5% of the vote.
The Sweden Democrats’ gains are due to what many voters saw as a failure of immigration and integration policies.
The party, which declined requests from Reuters to comment for this story, seized on anger over crime and gang shootings, notably blaming immigrants for the violence.
He has introduced a 30-point program aimed at achieving the least immigration in Europe, including legislation that would allow asylum to be denied to anyone who says they are fleeing persecution because they are gay or change their faith.
“Welcome to the repatriation train. You have a one way ticket. Next stop Kabul,” read a tweet from Sweden Democrats public order spokesman Tobias Andersson weeks before the 9/11 election.
It’s the kind of rhetoric that has left many of the country’s nearly 2 million foreign-born people worried and frustrated.
“If they think I’m coming back, they must be dreaming,” said Geza, a 54-year-old restaurant worker who came to Sweden from Somalia 30 years ago. “I live here, I work here, I pay taxes here. I have a Swedish passport. I am Swedish.”
The Sweden Democrats have several proposals to return people to their countries of origin. Those who have not “adjusted to society adequately should be encouraged to return,” the party said in a manifesto.
“We want to start getting a sustainable migration policy now. We wish our ideas had been heard 10 or 20 years ago, then we wouldn’t have the problems we have today,” Henrik Vinge, the party’s first deputy leader, said on election night.