Panic and hysteria in Sweden

The Swedish election drama is becoming a frightful circus. Judging by the headlines, the whole country is getting psychotic.

Sweden Democrats, a tiny fringe party, gets enough votes to enter the parliament, and suddenly tabloids make headlines about "dark forces". The parliament changes its rules for setting up working groups just in order to keep this little party totally isolated. Bagfuls of uncounted votes appear here and there before the final recount, in the hope that the build-up of Riksdagen could be adjusted and it just might be possible to set up a cabinet which does not need any support from Sweden Democrats. Put it in scale with the size of the country, and the whole show is more remarkable than the Bush-Gore recounts in the U.S. in 2000.

The election drama built up over a period of time. Publishing campaign adverts was restricted. The police told the Sweden Democrats not to make campaign gatherings because they could be attacked. Is that kind of situation acceptable in a democracy? On the other hand, it turns out that the SD member who claims to have been attacked and wounded with swastika marks may actually have inflicted the wounds himself - but who knows now? Paranoia is the word of the day.

Yes, some of the people in SD are probably racists. However, I think that a much more typical description of SD activists is that they are people who are fed up with the political class of Sweden. They are also politically inexperienced, enthusiastic but naive, and probably unable to co-operate even with each other, let alone anybody else.

The same is true with most populist movements. SD is characterized as an "extreme right" party, although in my opinion, their agenda is rather more typical of the political left, except for the subject of immigration. The ideology is: tax the rich, defend the poor, work against big international corporations, save the welfare system and increase redistributive actions of the state. Typical leftist policies. Again, the same is true with similar movements in other countries, like Perussuomalaiset in Finland. The movement is proletarian in heart, and perhaps that is what so scares the Swedish political elite.

This elite seems to be utterly at loss as to how to deal with the situation. Here the Swedes could learn a lesson from Finland, and also their own history.

In 1960's and 1970's Finland, the radical left - Stalinists - were popular among the young. The movement was embraced by then-president Urho Kekkonen, and effectively hugged to Brezhnev-like half-coma, if not full death.

In 1980's Finland, the populist SMP (Finnish Rural Party) attracted the votes of the neglected concrete suburbs, with a largely populist agenda. How were they then contained? They were made accountable for their campaign. Urpo Leppänen promised that he'll eliminate unemployment if his party gets enough votes to make him the employment minister. Well, he got his way. He became the minister. And he found out, the hard way, that it is easy to make promises but difficult to deliver. The party had got its votes, but it had no sustainable policy, it had no sustainable organization, and once the emptiness of this balloon was made visible to everyone, it imploded. Urpo Leppänen's policies turned out to be, although popular, too expensive and inefficient. SMP lost the next election and became a fringe party again.

Why don't they do the same to SD in Sweden?

As said, some of the Sweden Democracts are no doubt racists. More often they may be people who just want to protest the political culture in Sweden, and are unrealistic and un-co-operative. But "dark forces"? Come on, they don't look like Lord Voldemort to me. They lack the intelligence, the cunning, and the evil.

Some of the founders of SD have a background in Swedish Nazi groups. That doesn't impress me. The Left alliance in Sweden includes Vänsterpartiet, whose background is in the Communists, a similarly violent and destructive political ideology. Nobody is making a fuss about that. Hey, look at Björn Wahlroos, who was on the frontlines of Stalinist revolution in Finland in early 1970's, and see where he's now. People do change.

To conclude the lesson, here's what the Swedes should do. Don't isolate SD. That will just inflate their significance and help them grow, and continue to increase the tension. If the unhappiness of people - voters - has no way of coming out, the result will be increased violence - which so far has mostly included just unpunished rioting against the SD and the general civil unrest in places like Rosengård.

I suggest the democratic way. Engage the SD. Make them responsible for what they say and what they promise. If it turns out that their ideas were wrong, that their promises were unfounded, the best way to expose this is to debate the politics.

And remember, as far as I understand, that's what was done in Sweden with the Communists, who - despite a history of supporting murderous regimes - are now a happy member of the left alliance.

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