Establishment parties in Sweden closed ranks and agreed to form a government to block out an anti-immigrant party, possibly breaking a political deadlock that has dragged on since the far-right party surged in last autumn’s elections. The surprise cross-party deal shows how the ascendance of nativist and anti-immigration parties is scrambling longstanding political alliances. The fragmentation of the Swedish party system has—as in many European countries—complicated governing and made the formation of coalition governments more difficult. It took German and Italian parties months before they finally managed to form governments last year, while Sweden has been in limbo since last September’s general election in which no single party secured a clear majority.
Swedish election authorities have proposed that a potential snap election if the country fails to form a government be held on April 7th at an expected cost of 346 million kronor. The Election Authority’s administrative head Anna Nyqvist met parliamentary speaker Andreas Norlén on Thursday to discuss the practical details of a new election – if one goes ahead. “It is my hope that we will soon have a new government in place, but if the parties do not act in a way that allows for a prime minister to be elected, it is important to me to be prepared to set a date for an extra election,” said speaker Norlén in a written statement.
The leader of Sweden’s Social Democrats, Stefan Lofven, on Monday abandoned efforts to form a government, extending a political deadlock that has gripped the country since an inconclusive national election seven weeks ago. The failed attempt brought the prospect of a snap election closer, though the speaker of parliament said he would try to avoid that at all costs. The Sept. 9 vote gave the anti-immigrant Sweden Democrats hold the balance of power, but neither Lofven’s center-left bloc nor the center-right group of parties has been willing to give them a say in policy due to their white supremacist roots. “In light of the responses I have had so far … the possibility does not exist for me to build a government that can be accepted by parliament,” Lofven told reporters.
Swedish IT sector is helping the government make election systems more secure and reduce external influence. The security measures assembled and implemented around the 2018 election in Sweden were devised in consultation with leading actors within Sweden’s private IT sector. The primary role of the IT suppliers was to advise government panels, which included the national security service (Säpo), the National Police Board (Rikspolisstyrelsen), the National Civil Contingencies Agency and the National Election Authority. Säpo was at the head of a government-commissioned election taskforce that organised an IT-based protective shield around the voting process and implemented measures to minimise hostile external inference.
Sweden’s election authority completed its final count on on Sunday morning without any significant changes to the preliminary result. Anna Nyqvist, head of the Swedish Election Authority, told the TT newswire that the allocation of seats would remain unchanged, with 144 seats to the red-green bloc, 143 to the centre-right Alliance parties, and 62 seats to the anti-immigration Sweden Democrats. “For the election authority, it’s now all about getting ready a protocol and documents for members of parliament so that the parliament is ready to start work when it opens,” she said. “There’s a real shortage of time for the parliament to get everything in place before the opening.” Prime Minister Stefan Löfven used the final tally to once again argue that as the largest party leading the largest parliamentary bloc, the Social Democrats should lead Sweden’s next government.
Counting the votes cast in Sweden’s election has taken longer than expected, meaning the final result has been delayed and now won’t be released until Sunday. A preliminary result was released on Thursday afternoon after all the votes had been counted, but these must now be recounted and double-checked, as is standard procedure in Swedish elections. The official final result had been expected on Friday, with the Swedish Election Authority initially saying it could be released even earlier. On Friday morning however, the authority said that the final result had been delayed and was likely to be announced on Sunday. “It is extremely important that we are able to ensure that Sweden gets a correct election result,” Anna Nyqvist from the Swedish Election Authority said on Friday, in a statement which admitted the procedure had taken longer than estimated.
The two blocs are almost neck and neck as the counting of overseas votes starts in Sweden.
It is not yet known how many votes – Swedes abroad and some domestic votes that haven’t yet been registered – are left to count, but in the last two election they have been around 200,000. The preliminary election result is so tight that only two seats – or almost 30,000 votes of those that have been counted – currently put the left-wing bloc ahead of the four-party Alliance opposition. But based on past elections it is not likely that the late votes will change the number of seats won by either bloc, however it could change the seat allocation within the blocs, writes the TT newswire.
Social Democrat prime minister Stefan Lofven pledged on Sunday evening to remain prime minister of Sweden, with the general elections giving his centre-left bloc 144 seats in the Swedish parliament, the Riksdag – one more mandate than the centre-right opposition alliance’s 143 seats. The result is however so tight, with just some 30,000 votes separating the two blocs, that it may take until Wednesday (12 September) when the last votes cast by Swedes abroad have been counted and the result finally checked before the final result is known. The Social Democrats remained the biggest party with 28.4 percent of the votes, according to figures released on Monday morning. It gives the party 101 seats in the parliament, a record low result. The party had 113 seats after the 2014 elections.
Sweden headed for a hung parliament after an election on Sunday that saw support for the nationalist Sweden Democrats surge as one of Europe’s most liberal nations turned right amid fears over immigration. Far-right parties have made spectacular gains throughout Europe in recent years as anxieties grow over national identity and the effects of globalisation and immigration following armed conflict in the Middle East and North Africa. In Sweden, an influx of 163,000 asylum seekers in 2015 – the most in Europe in relation to the country’s population of 10 million – has polarised voters and fractured the long-standing political consensus.
Sweden faces a protracted period of political uncertainty after an election that left the two main parliamentary blocs tied but well short of a majority, and the far-right Sweden Democrats promising to wield “real influence” in parliament despite making more modest gains than many had predicted. The populist, anti-immigrant party won 17.6% of the vote, according to preliminary official results – well up on the 12.9% it scored in 2014, but far below the 25%-plus some polls had predicted earlier in the summer. It looked highly likely, however, to have a significant role in policymaking. The governing Social Democrats, led by prime minister Stefan Löfven, maintained their record of finishing first in every election since 1917, but saw their score fall to 28.4%, the lowest for a century, while the main centre-right opposition Moderate party also slipped to 19.8%.
Neither of Sweden’s main political blocs is likely to win a majority in an election on Sunday, giving the far-right Sweden Democrats a key role in shaping the next government. The center-left bloc, uniting the minority governing Social Democrat and Green parties with the Left Party, is backed by about 40 percent of voters, recent opinion polls show, a slim lead over the center-right Alliance bloc. The Sweden Democrats, who oppose immigration and Sweden’s continued membership of the European Union, are polling around 18 percent of the vote and would thus hold the balance of power.
One in three news articles shared online about the upcoming Swedish election come from websites publishing deliberately misleading information, most with a right-wing focus on immigration and Islam, Oxford University researchers say. Their study, published on Thursday, points to widespread online disinformation in the final stages of a tightly-contested campaign which could mark a lurch to the right in one of Europe’s most prominent liberal democracies. The authors, from the Oxford Internet Institute, labeled certain websites “junk news”, based on a range of detailed criteria. Reuters found the three most popular sites they identified have employed former members of the Sweden Democrats party; one has a former MP listed among its staff.
Sweden’s main opposition party has complained to international election observers of dirty tricks by the ruling Social Democrat party. Several local candidates of the centre-left Social Democrats resigned or were suspended by the party after spreading lies about the centre-right Moderates and nationalist Sweden Democrats ahead of elections on September 9. Social media post by candidates in at least five Swedish cities included the false assertions that the two rightwing parties were accusing Muslim parents of crimes in order to take their children away, and that they wanted to remove citizenship from anybody who arrived in the country after 1970. “We have been preparing . . . [for] foreign powers trying to influence the Swedish election process. We would never have dreamt that the threat would have come from within the country and our main opponents,” Anders Edholm, deputy secretary-general of the Moderates, told the Financial Times.
Twitter bots are proliferating ahead of Sweden’s election next month — and they are 40 percent more likely to support the anti-immigrant Sweden Democrats than human users. That’s the finding of the country’s Defense Research Agency, which says the social media platform has moved to suspend many of these malicious accounts. Democracies across the world need to prepare for this threat: Radical parties, with or without external help, are using and perfecting this form of digital propaganda — because it appears to work so well. It’s spreading, too. Sweden didn’t figure in this year’s list of 48 countries where Oxford University’s Computational Propaganda Research Project found evidence of social-media manipulation. In 2017, there were only 28 such countries.
A familiar script is playing out in cyber space as Swedes prepare to vote in 10 days. Facing what could be the most tumultuous election in a century, the nation’s institutions and political groups have come under increasing cyberattacks that are threatening to disrupt the outcome. There has been a proliferation of new “bots” on Twitter that are primarily stumping for the nationalist, anti-immigrant Sweden Democrats and attacking the ruling Social Democrats. The pattern of attack is by now familiar. Cyber warfare erupted almost a decade ago in the Baltic states and the U.S. election was famously upended by the hacking of the Democratic Party, which has since led to indictments of Russian intelligence operatives. There were also attempts to influence the French election, with Emmanuel Macron’s campaign falling victim to hacking.
Several former members of the violent and anti-democratic Nazi organization National Socialist Front (Nationalsocialistisk front – NSF) can be found on the election lists of the Sweden Democrats, according to an expose from the newspaper Expressen and the anti-racism group Expo. Matching all election candidates from all political parties – over 6,000 candidates for parliament, more than 12,000 for county councils and more than 52,000 and the municipal level – against lists of Nazi activists, the groups found a number of people with deep ties to Nazism who are now running for office as Sweden Democrats. Expressen and Expo said the candidates in question weren’t just peripherally involved in Nazi activities but were “deeply rooted in the Nazi environment”.
In less than three weeks Swedes take to the polls to cast their votes in the Swedish general election. The general election is scheduled for Sunday, September 9, 2018. Recent polls have seen far-right party Sweden Democrats (SD) gain support after a survey, conducted by Sipo, placed them second, behind Stefan Löfven and the Social Democrats Party (SAP). SAP has been favourites in Sweden for decades, but although they are topping the polls at the moment, the leftist party could be heading for their worst election in almost 100 years. This might come as a shock for the left-wing party as the support for SAP, a labour party at its core, has been stronger in Sweden than in almost any other countries since the country’s parliamentary-democratic breakthrough in 1917. 175 out of 349 seats are needed for a majority and currently, none of the parties or coalitions have reached this number in the pre-election polls.
The website of Sweden’s centre-left Social Democrats has been hacked for a second time, and the IP address responsible was linked to Russia and North Korea, according to the party’s IT provider. The hack was a distributed denial-of-service (DDoS) attack, meaning those responsible disrupted the site to make it unavailable to users. “This is serious. Citizens don’t have access to our site, the heart of our election campaign, where the information about our policies is,” the party’s head of communications, Helena Salomonson, told TT. The site was attacked at around 9pm on Monday, and was down for around six minutes in total, Salomonson said. The party has reported the incident to police.
For the first time in a Swedish election, observers from the Organization for Security and Cooperation in Europe (OSCE) will be present in the country to oversee the vote, according to reports in Swedish media. “This is the first time we have had any form of mission or observation activity in Sweden for an election,” the organization’s spokesperson Thomas Rymer told Sveriges Radio. The decision was made following discussions with politicians, representatives of the Swedish media, and some of those involved in organizing the election.
Russia has been repeatedly accused of interfering in recent elections. But Sweden is determined it won’t fall victim to any such meddling – with millions of leaflets being distributed and propaganda-spotting lessons for students. As campaigning intensified in the French election, the team of now President Emmanuel Macron said it was a target for “fake news” by Russian media and the victim of “hundreds if not thousands” of cyber-attacks from inside Russia. In Washington, sanctions were recently imposed on 19 Russians accused of interference in the 2016 US election and “destructive” cyber-attacks.
Russia could try to influence the outcome of national elections in Sweden in September if authorities in Moscow feel their strategic interests are threatened, the Swedish security service said on Thursday. The service’s head of counter-intelligence, Daniel Stenling, cited membership of NATO – which Sweden has debated joining – and security around the Baltic Sea as two important issues for Russia. “Russian espionage is still the biggest threat to Sweden,” he told an annual press briefing. “We see that Russia has an intention to influence individual issues that are of strategic importance. If these issues become central in the election campaign, we can expect attempts at Russian influence.” Stenling declined to say if his force had already seen evidence of such attempts.
Sweden: Sweden is taking on Russian meddling ahead of fall elections. The White House might take note. | The Washington Post
Hundreds of local election workers have been trained to spot and resist foreign influence. The country’s biggest media outlets have teamed up to combat false news. Political parties scour their email systems to close hacker-friendly holes. The goal: to Russia-proof Sweden’s political system so that what happened in the United States in 2016 can never happen in this Nordic country of 10 million people. Although the general election isn’t until Sept. 9, officials say their preemptive actions may already have dissuaded the Kremlin from interfering.
Sweden aims to create a new public body to protect its upcoming election from Russian and other propaganda. “It is now less than eight months left to the finest day in Sweden’s democratic life, our election day … [and] only Swedish voters will determine the outcome,” Swedish prime minister Stefan Loefven said at a security conference in Stockholm on Sunday (14 January). “To the one or those who are considering trying to influence … our country: stay away!”, he said. Loefven said the main threat came from Russia, but he added that “we can not rule out that there may be others” who would try to influence the Swedish vote on 9 September.
Sweden’s government on Saturday announced a deal with the opposition that will avert the country’s first snap elections in more than half a century and counter the rising influence of the anti-immigrant far right. The deal announced by Prime Minister Stefan Loefven, in office for less than three months, will see the minority center-left government remain in power. The far right has however threatened a no-confidence vote. Loefven had called early elections this month after the populist and anti-immigrant Sweden Democrats torpedoed his fledgling government’s budget. The crisis had dealt a severe blow to Sweden’s self-image as a tolerant nation and illustrated the rising political fortunes of anti-immigrant parties in much of Europe.
Swedish Prime Minister Stefan Lofven called the country’s first snap election in decades after a fringe populist party derailed his efforts to gather support for his first budget proposal. The decision, announced Wednesday, marks a rare moment of political drama in a country long known for the stability of its politics and the willingness of opposition lawmakers to work together to find solutions. The election, which is scheduled to be held March 22, would be Sweden’s first snap election since 1958. A decision the day before by the opposition, anti-immigration Sweden Democrats to back an alternative center-right budget plan effectively doomed the Social Democrat prime minister’s budget proposal, leaving him with a spending plan penned by political foes.
Sweden: Social Democrat Leader Stefan Lofven Defeats Incumbent Prime Minister Fredrik Reinfeldt | Wall Street Journal
Sweden’s Social Democrat Leader Stefan Lofven defeated incumbent Prime Minister Fredrik Reinfeldt in parliamentary elections on Sunday, signaling the return of a left-leaning government after eight years in opposition. The shift reflected concerns among the Swedish electorate that Mr. Reinfeldt’s pro-market policies have chipped away at the country’s cherished welfare state. Mr. Reinfeldt said he would resign as prime minister on Monday and as leader of his party by spring. Mr. Lofven, though, still faces tough negotiations with left-leaning allies over forming a coalition government after failing to secure an absolute majority. With nearly all votes counted, results from Sweden’s election authority showed the Social Democrats won 31.1% of the vote, largely unchanged from the last election in 2010, while Mr. Reinfeldt’s Moderate Party slumped to 23.2%, from 30.1% at the last election. Though the two parties won nearly the same amount of votes four years ago, Mr. Reinfeldt’s Moderates were then able to cobble together a larger center-right alliance of parties.
It might not appear the most obvious place to launch an election campaign. Most of those present are teenagers not old enough to vote, slouching on beanbags, texting or nodding their heads to the beat on their headphones. In a classroom plastered with posters of boybands, trainee hairdressers barely look up from their model wigs as Stefan Löfven, a Social Democrat who wants to be Sweden’s next prime minister, whizzes through the room. Yet in many ways Stockholm’s Grillska high school is the perfect launchpad for the centre-left party to orchestrate a political comeback after eight years out of government, the longest spell in its history. The school encapsulates Sweden’s much-admired public-private approach to solving the social-budgetary conundrums facing European economies – and its shortcomings. Formerly called John Bauergymnasiet, Grillska used to be one of Sweden’s publicly funded but privately run friskolor (free schools) until its owner, the Danish private equity company Axcel, filed for bankruptcy last April.
Sweden, seen for years as a beacon of stability and reforms in a crisis-ridden Europe, may be heading for political deadlock after Sunday’s general election, with polls suggesting that both right and left might be unable to form a stable government. Prime Minister Fredrik Reinfeldt’s center-right coalition is battling an opposition alliance led by the Social Democrats. But neither group looks set to win a majority – putting them at the mercy of more radical leftist or far-right parties. The Social Democrats, campaigning to spend more money on a welfare state that they founded in the last century, were the election favorites for months. But some polls suggest a once seemingly unassailable lead has narrowed, unsettling businesses and investors and even raising the prospect of a new vote. “It could be an Italian situation, something we’ve hardly ever experienced in Sweden,” said Magnus Henrekson, Director of the Research Institute of Industrial Economics. An increasingly likely scenario is that Social Democrat leader Stefan Lofven will head the biggest party but struggle to cobble together a majority. Even if he won the support of a former communist party, he could still be in a minority against the far right and Reinfeldt’s coalition.
Swedish voters are now less likely to oust the government of Prime Minister Fredrik Reinfeldt on Sept. 14 than they were just a week ago. The Social Democrat-led opposition’s lead has narrowed to 4.5 points in the latest poll by Sifo — the smallest difference since May last year — from 7.3 points a week earlier and 9.8 a month earlier. The shift toward the government follows presentations by the main parties revealing their policy goals for the next four years. “We’re talking about 135,000 voters for things to become completely even, and that’s of course not a huge number,” said Toivo Sjoeren, head of opinion research at TNS Sifo in Stockholm, by phone. He says history indicates that even after narrowing, the margin remains too wide for Reinfeldt to be re-elected. “On the other hand, you actually never know.”
While most Swedes wait until the elections are on the doorstep, the polls are now open for those who’ve made up their mind already. But early voting has become all the more popular in Sweden, reported the TT news agency. In the 2010 elections, 39.4 percent of voters cast their ballot early, compared to just 31.8 percent in 2006. This year, voting cards have been sent out to 7.6 million Swedes. There are around 3,000 spots around the country where they can cast their early votes, too.