Former Neo-Nazis Expected to Win up to 20 Percent of Vote in Sweden’s Election

A Swedish political party with roots in neo-Nazi movements has been predicted to take up to one in five votes when the Scandinavian nation heads to the polls on Sunday.

The far-right Sweden Democrats (SD) could even become the biggest party in the country’s government, according to The Local. And while leaders of the party insist that they are not Nazis or racists, the party was founded by many members of the now disbanded and openly racist Keep Sweden Swedish group.

Sweden's Prime Minister Stefan Lofven has previously called the party "a neo-fascist single-issue party" with "Nazi and racist roots."

GettyImages-1025506162 Protesters show placards as Sweden Democrats party leader Jimmie Akesson gives a campaign speech in Malmo, in southern Sweden, on August 31. A Swedish political party with roots in neo-Nazi movements has been predicted to take up to one in five votes when the Scandinavian nation heads to the polls on Sunday. JOHAN NILSSON/AFP/Getty Images

Politicians representing the SD regularly attack immigration and criticize the spread of Islam in Europe, German broadcaster Deutsche Welle (DW) reported. On closed social media groups for SD members, it's common to find overtly xenophobic and racist comments as well.

According to the Expressen newspaper, a local SD politician recently wrote in a Facebook group about "the Jewish plague,” arguing that "Hitler was not wrong about the Jews." The article also revealed that at least eight of the party’s current candidates are former members of neo-Nazi groups.

Nonetheless, Mattias Karlsson, the party's parliamentary leader, insists that the party doesn’t tolerate racism. “We are really firm and noncompromising about these issues," he told DW. "If there's any sign of xenophobia and racism, we immediately expel those representatives."

But analysts suggest that SD does little to curb the racism within its ranks. David Baas, a journalist, explained that the group has “two faces.”

“On their public Facebook profiles, they don't write these things, but on VK [a Russian social media platform], they write something very different,” he pointed out to the German broadcaster.

At a recent rally, Jimmie Akesson, the 39-year-old leader of the populist party, railed against Islam. During the event, he complained that Muslims aim "to build giant mosque complexes with huge minarets everywhere.”

GettyImages-1024820516 People protest during a campaign visit of the Sweden Democrats party’s leader in Gothenburg, Sweden, on August 28. ADAM IHSE/AFP/Getty Images

Akesson and his party have also argued that Sweden’s welfare state is at risk from the influx of asylum seekers. Since 2015, the country has taken in about 163,000 refugees, according to The Guardian. A string of recent violent crimes—including shootings and grenade attacks, often in poorer areas with higher concentrations of immigrants—have been used by the group as fodder for their political stance.

Bjorn Soder, who represents SD in parliament, also drew controversy earlier this year when he said via Facebook that Jews and members of the Sami minority are not Swedes, Times of Israel reported. However, there are several Jews within the ranks for the party as well.

Meanwhile, Sweden currently has its lowest unemployment rate in a decade, while the economy continues to grow. Nonetheless, SD has been able to play on anti-immigrant feelings to rally support.

“Two arguments have been effective. Immigration is a threat to society, because it’s hard to integrate people with different cultural norms. And the cost is harming Sweden’s welfare state,” Niklas Bolin, a specialist in the radical right at Mid Sweden University, told The Guardian. “That economic point has really appealed.”

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