Swedish Nationalist Group Surges Amid Protests

Malin Rising, WTOP-FM (Washington, D.C.), September 16, 2010

Polls in Sweden show a small anti-immigration party is likely to enter Parliament for the first time in elections Sunday, despite attempts by vuvuzela-blowing protesters to disrupt the nationalist group’s campaign rallies.

The Sweden Democrats are warning that lenient immigration policies are threatening the country’s welfare system, and a series of recent surveys shows the party has climbed above the 4 percent threshold necessary to enter to the legislature.

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In the final days of campaigning, both blocs [center-right and left-wing] have warned voters against bringing the party into Parliament, saying it represents xenophobic views that don’t belong in a country seen as tolerant and welcoming to refugees.

Jimmie Akesson, the leader of the Sweden Democrats, advocates sharp cuts in immigration and has called Islam the greatest foreign threat to Swedish society since World War II.

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Hundreds of protesters tried to drown out Akesson’s speech in Stockholm on Thursday by chanting and making noise with vuvuzelas–plastic horns of the kind used by spectators at the football (soccer) World Cup in South Africa.

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“For us the priority is absolutely clear: we choose to restore the Swedish welfare system,” Akesson told a few dozen supporters who were shielded by 200 police officers from a much larger crowd of protesters.

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Some 12,000 immigrants countrywide walked out of their jobs for five minutes Thursday as part of a Facebook protest against the Sweden Democrats, organizer Damon Rasti said. He said workers from all fields, including doctors, bus drivers and artists, participated in the event, which was aimed at showing that immigrants are essential to Swedish society.

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Still, the protests and demonstrations seem to have done little to diminish support for the Sweden Democrats.

Four different polls this week show Akesson’s party getting between 4.1 and 7.5 percent of the vote. It’s unclear whether it would get the chance to play kingmaker; several surveys show the center-right government is likely to retain its majority in Parliament.

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Akesson criticized the two blocs for ruling out cooperation with his party.

“If this is what happens after Monday, that the others refuse to speak to us, then it is not our fault if there is parliamentary chaos,” he said, before police and bodyguards whisked him away to a waiting car.

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