Freddie Sayers spoke to Ivar Arpi to learn more about Sweden's new government
Swedish politics’ Rightward shift has dented the country’s image as the spiritual home of the liberal Left. Indeed, such was the success of Sweden’s Right-wing coalition that the New York Times proclaimed that “Sweden is becoming unbearable” on the day of the election.
Much of this nervousness can be put down to the growing influence of the anti-immigration Sweden Democrats. While not directly in power, the party’s political support for the Right-wing coalition means that they can exert pressure on their more moderate counterparts to reconsider Sweden’s experiment in mass immigration.
UnHerd’s Freddie Sayers sat down with independent journalist Ivar Arpi to discuss exactly what Sweden’s drift to the Right means. A well-known commentator in Sweden, Arpi has used his blog, Rak höger or ‘Straight Right’, to advocate for much tougher immigration policies in the country. He argues that the wave of refugees and asylum seekers that entered the country in 2015 — mostly Afghan or Syrian — had a destabilising effect on Swedish society. This year, there have been 47 fatal shootings — equal to last year’s record — and just a few weeks before this election, a 5-year-old and her mother were shot at a playground.
Sweden’s historically homogenous population now looks very different from 20 or even 10 years ago. According to state statistics, 25% of the population and upwards of 40% of people under 50 are foreign born or have foreign born parents.
Arpi is clear that past assimilation efforts in Sweden have, in most cases, been a success: “50% of doctors are foreign born or educated in another country. […] Their kids are going to Swedish schools, they have a Swedish education. And they’re fully integrated.” But after 2015, integration failed because Sweden let too many refugees in. “We are becoming more like Lebanon and Brazil,” he says.
Certain neighbourhoods, or ‘vulnerable areas’ as they are described by Swedish authorities, have seen disenfranchised immigrants cutting off from wider Swedish society, struggling to find jobs or to learn the language. In Arpi’s words, “People are getting stuck in these areas […]. There are no native Swedish speakers in the schools. There is no contact with wider society from these areas. And in these areas, criminal gangs have taken control over large parts of society and people are captives in those parts.”
For the Swedish voter who watched rates of gun violence skyrocket in recent years, confronting crime was a central issue in this election. When asked about the violence in Sweden, Arpi acknowledges” “It’s not Brazil. It’s not, you go to a favela, or you go to Baltimore, it’s not the same. But the grenade violence and the bombs are on the same level as Mexico. People are bombing in the central Uppsala, and they’re bombing and they’re shooting into regular apartments in affluent areas […] We have kids who are being killed at the playground because the criminals in Sweden are so reckless in their violence and they have automatic rifles. And that’s new.”
Arpi says that the unlikeliness of radical change has led to a kind of national ennui: “There’s a profound sadness in the whole of Swedish society. People are very pessimistic.” But still, he has hope that the new government can offer solutions, despite hand-wringing from the media: “If you ask the Left-wing, it’s 1933, in Germany, and if you ask the Right-wing we are in 2022, finally starting to rise to the challenge.”