Wednesday, November 17, 2010

Still on the subject of elections, in the recent Swedish elections thousands of people staged a protest in the capital, Stockholm, against the election to parliament of 20 members of a far-right party. They waved banners and shouted slogans criticising the Sweden Democrats, who oppose immigration and have been accused of racism and intolerance. A crowd of about 6,000 protesters, according to local police, took part in the demonstration shouting "No to racism!" There was another, smaller demonstration in Gothenburg. The protests started within hours of the news that the Sweden Democrats, had won 20 seats.
On the Monday morning, a few hundred people gathered in front of government buildings in the city to express their disgust that what they describe as a racist political party now sits in parliament By the evening, thousands had joined them, filling entire blocks of the city centre.
"It is very important to show that the big majority of the Swedish population is against the right-wing extremists like the Sweden Democrats," one of the participants, Per Branevige said. (6000 people are a majority of the Swedish population?) Reports say the spontaneous demonstration was organized mainly through social networking sites such as Facebook and by word of mouth. If it was organized it could hardly be spontaneous.
The Sweden Democrats seem to have appeared to have tapped into voter dissatisfaction over immigration with the result undermining the image of Sweden as a tolerant and open-minded country.
The spontaneous organised demonstration can hardly be called tolerant and open-minded. Democracy is obviously what you make of it. If you don’t like somebody’s politics even though they have been democratically elected, demonstrate your disapproval. In Greece the demonstration too often results in a riot usually blamed on a few trouble makers.
There have been times of course when those who have been democratically elected should not have been but that’s the way it goes.
Newspapers seemed surprised by the fact that a populist/anti-immigration party made it into parliament. Every politician has, in some way, expressed his or her feelings of shock. This is despite the fact that everyone saw it coming. The parties have undoubtedly been calculating on the event, even as they refused to answer questions on which coalitions could be formed if the Sweden Democrats were to enter the Riksdag. For decades, the Sweden Democrats have been on the rise in the polls. No-one has taken this threat seriously - the only response has been to "demonise", not only the party, but more importantly the people who consider voting for them.

There has been lots of talk about challenging the Sweden Democrats and their views. But in reality these actions have never taken the form of intelligent debate - just finger-pointing. The SD was handed the underdog position, and has used it to its advantage in every way. Being marginalized for decades has worked in its favour, compared to other populist parties, which usually rise and fall again quickly. Twenty seats though hardly seems the end of the world for Sweden and with the flood of immigrants into Europe the tolerance pendulum was bound to swing.

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