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New Government Crisis Brewing in Sweden as Immigration Debate Flares Up Anew

© AFP 2023 / BERND WUESTNECKMigrants go to the ferry terminal to buy tickets at the port of Rostock, northeastern Germany
Migrants go to the ferry terminal to buy tickets at the port of Rostock, northeastern Germany - Sputnik International
Sweden's ruling coalition, which took months of intense deliberations and mutual concessions to build is now at risk of breaking up, should the Social Democrats accept the opposition's demands for a harder immigration line.

The Green Party has threatened to leave the government if the Social Democrats, their seniors, accept a more restrictive asylum immigration.

Previously, the Social Democrats, Sweden's ruling party presiding over a minority government, agreed to several of the liberal-conservative opposition Moderate Party's demands, including a volume target for immigration. This is something the Greens, their junior colleagues, are not ready to accept, as the party seeks a more generous immigration line.

In other words, there will be no bill from the government on the issue, as it requires unity in the government.

“The refugee policy is important to us, it's about people and vulnerable children”, Green MP Annika Hirvonen Falk, a member of the Migration Committee told national broadcaster SVT. She explained the Greens' goal is to settle on a “humane and safe” refugee policy and stressed that it is “not impossible” the party will leave the government, therefore effectively busting the minority coalition that took several months to form, with painstaking concessions from all the parties involved.

The Social Democrats, who governed Sweden for most of the 20th century, showed their worst electoral performance in a century at merely 28.3 percent, and had to rely on a bloc-transcending alliance with the Centre and the Liberals.

SVT's political commentator Mats Knutson argued that the Greens are bluffing.

“I do not think the Greens are ready to crack the government over asylum policy. It is the climate issue that is the main focus of the party. Crashing the government over a completely different issue while believing we are in an environmental and climate crisis, this is certainly not a vote winner”, Knutsson said.

At the same time, he argued, the Social Democrats can achieve tremendous gains through a more restrictive immigration. That would “disarm” the issue and attract more voters to the floundering party, he believes.

Following a brief uptick, the Social Democrats are seeing their support dwindle, which is partly ascribed to Stockholm's maverick approach to the coronavirus, that in the words of The New York Times, made Sweden a “pariah state”. Support for the Greens in a recent poll plummeted to merely 3.4 percent, which would have left the party outside of the parliament.

Meanwhile, another poll showed that six out of ten Swedes want to receive fewer refugees, and close to two out of three want an immigration “ceiling”. Furthermore, some 72 percent argued that integration works poorly.

While the liberal-conservative Moderates and Christian Democrats want Sweden to reduce acceptance to the same level as other Nordic countries, which would mean a reduction of up to 80 percent, the national-conservative Sweden Democrats want a total stop.

On the other end of the scale is the Feminist Initiative party, who is demanding that Sweden receive at least 100,000 asylum seekers every year (around 1 percent of the nation's population). In contrast to the right-of-centre “blue” bloc, the Feminist Initiative calls for an “immigration floor”. According to the Feminist Initiative, immigration has positive macroeconomic effects, and Swedes should be “grateful” to live in a country “that people want to flee to”.

Sweden used to be one of Europe's most homogeneous nations until the 1990s. Following decades of mass immigration, however, the share of immigrants and their descendants has quickly soared to around a quarter of the Swedish population of over 10 million.

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