Swedish election: Far-right party with neo-Nazi roots set to become second-largest in parliament

Groups of supporters cheering and waving flags

The Swedish election has seen the far-right make worrying gains, with a former neo-Nazi group snapping up one in five votes.

The far-right Sweden Democrats party – which has roots in neo-Nazism and a history of anti-LGBTQ+, anti-immigrant sentiment – gained approximately 20 per cent of the vote, with just under 95 per cent of the vote counted.

It is poised to become the second-largest party in parliament, with 73 seats (a gain of 11) to the centre-left Social Democrats’ 108 (up eight, and representing 30 per cent of the vote).

Conclusive results will be known after the votes of Swedish nationals living abroad are counted, but exit polls have predicted that the incumbent left-wing coalition led by the Social Democrats will remain in power.

Regardless, Sweden Democrat leader Jimmie Åkesson said: “Our goal is to sit in government. Our goal is a majority government. It’s looking pretty damn good now.”

Social Democratic leader Magdalena Andersson told supporters to “have patience” and “let democracy run its course”.

The leader of the Sweden Democrats Jimmie Akesson celebrates at the party’s election watch in Nacka, near Stockholm late Sunday evening on September 11, 2022. (Jonathan Nackstrand/ Getty)Sweden Democrats emerged from the neo-Nazi movement in the mid-1990s.

While it has attempted to distance itself from these roots, it remains incredibly controversial. The party is fuelled by anti-migrant rhetoric, and critics claim it is still inhernetly racist.

“The SD is currently by far the biggest party in the world with Nazi roots,” intercultural studies lecturer Tobias Hubinette told The Guardian.

“Even if the party officially condemns its own race ideological roots, this background is today still present in the sense that the SD is still… seeing itself as the only political force that can save the native white Swedish majority population.”

Leader Åkesson’s stance on LGBTQ+ rights and immigration has made him an incredibly divisive figure in the country.

In 2016, he was escorted out of an LGBTQ+ club after guests became upset by his presence.

According to the Swedish paper Aftonbladet, some left in protest after the atmosphere in the club became increasingly “threatening”, while others shouted that he was a “f**king racist.”

The party was publishing anti-LGBTQ+ material as recently as 2007, but has appeared to ease outright attacks on queer people in recent years.

The party won its first seat in 2010 and has increased its vote share in successive elections.

Party secretary Richard Jomshof has said he doesn’t believe other parties could push out Sweden Democrats at this point, saying: “We are so big now… it is clear we should have a spot on parliamentary committees.”