Populist Gamble Backfires for Biggest Opposition Party in Sweden

  • Benchmark poll shows opposition party down more than 5 points
  • Anti-immigrant party still doing well on nationalist platform

Sweden’s biggest opposition party is sinking in the polls, with mounting calls for its leader to resign, after a gambit to embrace the country’s right-wing, anti-immigrant group backfired.

The Moderate Party, as Sweden’s Conservatives call themselves, registered 18.1 percent support in the benchmark semi-annual opinion poll released on Wednesday by Statistics Sweden. That’s down more than 5 percentage points from the election in 2014. Support has almost halved from levels seen when the Moderates steered Sweden through the financial crisis during their time in government.  

CenterLiberalsMCDSDPGreensLeftSD
11.3%5.0%18.1%3.2%31.1%4.5%6.3%18.4%
+5.2-0.4-5.2%-1.4+0.1-2.4+0.6+5.5

Source: Statistics Sweden

Pressure is building for party leader Anna Kinberg Batra to step down after she in January invited closer cooperation with the nationalist Sweden Democrats, which have been attracting voters by calling for stricter immigration rules. Kinberg Batra is hemorrhaging voters to the Center Party, an opposition ally that has taken a clearer pro-immigration stance.

“This is a serious situation and we have to turn this around,” Kinberg Batra said in a post on her Instagram account. “We have to be humble about the fact that the Swedish people don’t have enough confidence in the Moderates.”

Read more here on the Moderate’s shift

Immigration has emerged as one of the most important issues in the minds of Swedish voters after the country of 10 million people received about a quarter of a million migrants in 2014 and 2015.

With votes shifting among the opposition alliance and the nationalist Sweden Democrats gaining, there’s little reason to celebrate for the Social Democratic-led government. While Prime Minister Stefan Lofven has been able to maintain support for his party, problems for his coalition partner, the Green Party, dragged down backing for the two-party minority government to just 35.6 percent in Wednesday’s poll.

Read more on the Green Party’s woes here

The government, which has overseen a boom in the Swedish economy, in part fueled by a record inflow of migrants, has promised to raise taxes in a bid to boost welfare, education and security. It’s also taken a hard line on banks and financiers in general, arguing the sector and those in it can afford to pay more toward welfare.

Read more on Sweden’s economy here.

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