Far Right in Time and Space

Sverigedemokraterna: how to label them and why?

Jimmie Åkesson - Leader of SD (theconversation.com, 2018)
Jimmie Åkesson – Leader of SD (theconversation.com, 2018)

How did a party go from a 2,93% result in the 2006 Swedish general election to reaching as far up as 17,53% in the latest general election, in 2018? That is the principal question being asked by academics when reflecting on the rise of the Swedish far-right political party, the Sverigedemokraterna (the Sweden Democrats).

SD’s Establishment and Growth

The party itself has existed since early 1988, yet its rise into prominence on the Swedish political stage only began taking place towards the beginning of the 2010’s. How could this be? What role have the ideologies of fascism and populism had in this rise?

Following their entry into the Swedish parliament, the principal establishment parties, the centre-right ‘Moderaterna’ (Moderates), the centre-left ‘Socialdemokraterna’ (Social Democrats) along with the minor parties on both sides of the spectrum agreed on one point. They placed the SD (Sverigedemokraterna) under a cordon sanitaire, promising not to work with them when legislating, as they showed fear as a response to the sudden rise of this ideology, worrying that their voter bases were diminishing. They began to scramble to quickly ascertain any and all reasons why voters switched to such a radical ideology.

To anyone unaware of the traditional structure of the Swedish political system, it has typically been divided up into two blocs. These are the Left bloc, encompassing all parties on the left of the political scale and the Bourgeois bloc, encompassing all parties in the center and on the right of the political scale.

On the left (in descending order); the Left party, the Social democrats & the Green Party. On the right (in descending order); the Center party, the Liberals, the Moderates & the Christian democrats.

Ideology? Which ideology?

Ideologically, there is some doubt among the Swedish people of what label best suits the party. The Sverigedemokraterna describe themselves as “Social Conservatives”, while descriptions by the Swedish people go anywhere from far right to center-right and/or libertarian. What is in good fortune for us debating this on an academic level, however, is that both the Swedish political establishment and the Swedish political scientist communities agree on them being far right.

But, how radical exactly is this ideology? The general public and media often discuss how and label the SD as an extreme party, arguing that they bear similarity to fascists of old, while some suggest populist is a better term for defining the party.


Firstly, let us look at the term and applicability of the term fascist. Ever since the birth of SD, although they contest the validity of said comparison, they have always been called fascist, sometimes even Nazi. If one looks back on their history it is indeed closely connected with Nazi movements in Sweden, and evidence would suggest it possibly still is, although the party itself strongly disavows this claim. One cannot deny, however, that the roots from which the party sprung are indeed of Nazi ideology, subsequently often referred to by many academics as fascist. Fascism is often defined as being connected race, and, by extension, racism. The latter being a topic one could argue is clearly exhibited in both SD’s and their precursor party’s old campaign slogans.

SD’s old campaign slogan: “Bevara Sverige Svenskt” [Keep Sweden Swedish]. (Wikipedia.com)

Along with the slogan on the left, the precursor to SD, whose name will become more relevant soon, when discussing populism, used various other slogans which would be regarded as especially racist in modern times. For example; “Låt inte din dotter bli en negerleksak” [Don’t let your daughter become a toy for a negro], was one which caused outrage.


The title of “populist” is one which SD have always seemed less reluctant to take on, as it is essentially a politically ambiguous title for an ideology. Generally, a populist party is simply a party claiming to represent the common people. This means that any party can easily call themselves populist. Academically, this causes a problem. Whereas one can be reasonably meticulous in defining the key tenets of fascism, populism is vague and can, for all intents and purposes, be applied to any party placing anywhere on the political compass. What this then does is to suggest something new, nuance.

So Which is it?

I would argue that nuance is the truth behind their ideology, but also behind their growth. In fact, it seems that it is the act of others shaming SD and its supporters as evil fascist which simply strengthens their belief that they are benevolent populists, saving the Swedish people from what they do not understand is wrong. Contrary to the belief of the rest of the Swedish political establishment, SD and its supporters see themselves as “The Good Guys” of Swedish politics, just that the rest don’t know it yet.

Finally, regarding ideology, I think both nuance and perspective are relevant. I believe SD still exhibits clear aspects of fascism, however, not as explicitly as it did before its rise, and, given its current level of support, it definitely could be said to be representing a large amount of the Swedish populous. Ultimately, it seems to me that there is more fascism, albeit subtler than in decades prior, than populism to SD, but still both exist.

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13 thoughts on “Sverigedemokraterna: how to label them and why?

  1. Firstly, the introduction convinces the reader to keep on going. It would be interesting to see more hyperlinks since the topic is not that popular. In this way, the reader can find more information about it. To visually represent your words you can add some pictures, such as the logo of the Sverigedemokraterna.

    1. Thank you for your comment! I appreciate the advice and I have endeavoured to apply the changes to my post. I hope it makes for an interesting read!

  2. That is a good starting point, well done! Your introduction is really catchy, therefore we are really looking forward to knowing the answer to your research question. Since we are writing on the consequences of globalization on the rise of the far-right, we wonder if the recent success of Sverigedemokraterna is linked to that phenomenon. Although some sentences can be rephrased, your grammar is rather flawless. Moreover, we appreciated your title as well as your paragraphs’ length. We know it is only a preliminary draft, however, in the coming weeks, we advise you to integrate images, hyperlinks, as well as headings since we consider them to be fundamental elements of a well-written blog post.

    1. Thank you for your comment! I kept the introduction as I restructured the rest of it and tried to take on the rest of your advice as I was writing. Regarding your question about whether globalisation influenced the rise of SD, I believe the answer is twofold. Firstly, I would in part agree with you. Globalisation did indeed encourage the general rise of far right parties across Europe, including SD, but I would credit their rise more to the side effects and/or consequences of globalisation instead. For example, the economic crisis and migration crisis have contributed significantly more to their rise.

      1. Thank you for the reply Owain, and thanks for sharing your opinion with us regarding the role of globalization in the rise of Sverigedemokraterna. This final version is much better than the one we read a few weeks ago, well done! You integrated appropriate headings and subheadings, and you now have a sufficient amount of hyperlinks. Good luck with the finalization of the blog!

  3. We know that this is just a first draft and it is a good start! You make a good description of the Sverigedemokraterna and explain realle well its relation with other political partoes. However, we would like to know what is your opinion about it. The use of subheading could also help the reader to understand better your arguments. In general, believe that this post has potential to be an excellent one and we can’t wait to read the final draft.

    1. Thank you for the advice! I took on board your points on subheadings and attempted to split up the post in an even and more balanced manner. Regarding my opinion, I tried to incorporate that into the post in the last section, a conclusion of sorts and I hope it makes for an interesting read!

  4. I think the blog covers very well the overall political situation within Sweden. I think it’s a good start. Maybe more time would be spent in connecting this to the populism aspect discussed in the other blogs?

  5. The text intrigues and informs in a very balanced matter – definitely a solid ground for further refining of the blog post. Nevertheless, it is useful to back up your arguments with academic sources to sound more convincing. On the matter of argumentation, when referring to the “Swedish people” and “the general public” – is this a personal observation or is it backed up by statistical data?

    The blog entry by @owoudstra refers to this one as a case study for investigating how to categorise Sverigedemokraterna – as far-right, populist or both. Will you also use Mudde’s definitions and criteria? What differences and similarities can you draw between Sverigedemokraterna and Vox in Spain?

    1. Thank you for your comment! Regarding the terminology I used, when connected to the sources I hyperlinked, which as I recall is most cases, the terms are backed up by data, but of course it does also make for more colourful language, as I endeavoured not to sound all too formal.
      Regarding Oscar’s post, I hope that my now finished version of the post explains in detail what you were wondering and cleared up anything unclear there.
      Regarding the comparison with Vox, SD are on a European level the same and allied with Vox ideologically. However, Vox has more of a solid founding regarding populism and fascism, for example when one considers Franco’s regime, whereas SD is more built from the ground up. By this, I mean that Sweden, ever since it became a constitutional monarchy, has always been a left wing, socially democratic nation.

      1. Dear @othomas thank you for your response! Your blog entry has indeed developed well. Good luck with future research.

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