Ulf Kristersson will be named Sweden’s new prime minister on Tuesday as the mainstream rightwing politician becomes the first in the country’s modern history to take power thanks to the support of a far-right party.
Kristersson won the vote in Sweden’s parliament 176-173 with the backing of the three centre-right parties that will be in his government coalition as well as the nationalist Sweden Democrats, who as a support party have gained significant influence over immigration, law and order and other areas.
“I am happy about the support I have received from parliament, but also I am greatly humbled by the tasks that lie ahead of us,” Kristersson said after the vote on Monday.
Rightwing parties have ended eight years of leftwing rule in Sweden after arguing that the rich Scandinavian country was facing a social crisis with a record number of deadly shootings this year, predominantly by gang members in suburbs with large immigrant populations.
Kristersson will include ministers from his Moderate party as well as the smaller Christian Democrats and Liberals in his government, which he will announce on Tuesday. The Sweden Democrats, which beat the Moderates into second place behind the centre-left Social Democrats, will not have any ministerial post but will control many of the most important committees in parliament.
The far-right party has also managed to push through many of their most-desired policies into the government programme such as toughening punishments for gang criminals, the consideration of a national begging ban, and a significant tightening of asylum rules including for family reunion, increasing them to the minimum EU level.
The rightwing parties including the Sweden Democrats argue that Sweden’s generous immigration policy — it took in more asylum seekers per capita than any other EU country in the years up to 2015 — has led to a rise in gang crime, particularly deadly shootings and the use of grenades and bombs. They argued that the ruling leftwing government failed to take decisive action, leading to growing segregation, shootings and social problems.
“Today is extra special because we are part of the government formation process,” said Jimmie Åkesson, leader of the Sweden Democrats.
Leftwing parties and the centrist Centre party have decried the normalisation of the Sweden Democrats, which has roots in the neo-Nazi movement but has moderated its message in recent years, and played down the link between immigration and rising gang crime.
Those parties and some political experts point to the longtime distrust between the Liberals and the Sweden Democrats, which some believed meant that Kristersson could struggle to form a viable government.
“They have presented an agreement that may solve internal problems within the right wing, but which completely misses crucial social problems and which risks making Swedes poorer,” said outgoing Social Democrat prime minister Magdalena Andersson.
Annika Hirvonen, a leftwing Green MP, said that “tomorrow, I will dress in black”, signifying that she was in mourning for Swedish politics after the Sweden Democrats gained influence in government.
In recent decades rightwing governments have been formed in neighbouring Denmark, Finland and Norway with the support of nationalist parties. The election of a rightwing coalition led by a far-right group in Italy has increased fears about the rise of such parties across Europe.