26 SEP 2010
Its asylum policies are the continent's most generous. But the public mood is now changing
Ian Traynor in Malmo ¦ Guardian
In a country that elevated social democracy into the natural form of government for decades, Maria has been a loyal stalwart. The 66-year-old retired canteen worker has always voted for Sweden's Social Democratic party, like the vast majority in her working-class suburb of Malmo. Until last Sunday, that is. That morning Maria broke the habit of a lifetime and in doing so helped redraw the map of Swedish politics. She voted for an extreme-right movement accused of being Islamophobic that broke into parliament in Stockholm for the first time, probably condemning the country to a fragile minority government.
She was not alone. In Maria's high-rise suburb of Almgården an astonishing one in three voted for Sweden Democrats, a party dubbed "racist and neo-Nazi" and led by Jimmie Åkesson, the new young darling of the European far right.
The reason is plain. Maria pointed across the dual carriageway to the neighbouring housing scheme of Rosengård, known locally as "the ghetto".
It is home to almost 20,000 immigrants, overwhelmingly Muslim, almost half of them jobless.
Read entire article