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A far-right party in Sweden has grown more influential in recent years


A far-right party with roots in neo-Nazi groups is expected to play a central role in Sweden's next coalition government.


The Sweden Democrats have grown more influential in recent years after it moderated some of its positions and expelled some of its extremist members. Its anti-immigration, tough on crime platform resonated with Swedish voters in Sunday's election.

INSKEEP: Charlie Duxbury is the Stockholm correspondent for Politico Europe and joins us. Welcome.

CHARLIE DUXBURY: Good morning.

INSKEEP: I just heard A say they moderated their positions. What did they stand for in the past, and what do they stand for now?

DUXBURY: Yes, so the Sweden Democrats do have roots in neo-Nazi groups of the late '80s, early '90s in Sweden. In the years since, they kind of cleaned things up and moved more towards the mainstream, but they still stand for a very hard line on immigration and a hard line on law and order. And that's what seems to have attracted voters in Sunday's vote.

INSKEEP: Hasn't Sweden welcomed a relatively large number of refugees from the Middle East and elsewhere in recent years?

DUXBURY: That's right. During Europe's migration crisis from 2015 onwards, Sweden took a relatively large number of those asylum-seekers. And the government at the time, social democratic government, was relatively welcoming in the same way that Germany was, and tens of thousands of asylum-seekers arrived in Sweden. Since then, there's been a kind of backlash in - among some groups, particularly the Sweden Democrats, who said that that was a mistake and that the integration of immigrants since then has been a failure.

INSKEEP: Well, what does it mean that they did so well in Sunday's election? And how much influence do they now have? They wouldn't be leading the coalition, I guess.

DUXBURY: No. So the count's still ongoing. We should have a final result by this evening. What is expected to happen is that the center-right moderate party will lead the government but will lean heavily on the Sweden Democrats, who achieved a score of about 20% of the vote on Sunday. And the Sweden Democrats will be under pressure from their own voters to show that they can deliver on some quite ambitious campaign pledges to cut down on immigration, to increase policing powers in sentencing in the courts in Sweden. So that will be a closely watched discussion over the days and weeks to come.

INSKEEP: Is the center-right party that seems likely to lead the coalition in a position where they would essentially have to do what the Sweden Democrats demand on their particular issues to keep the coalition together?

DUXBURY: They'll certainly have to offer some serious concessions to the Sweden Democrats to hold this loose coalition together. They may decide to offer them ministerial positions. They may decide to try and run a minority government with the Sweden Democrats outside. But either way, the Sweden Democrats are going to demand serious influence over the government in the four-year mandate period to come, and they will have to show the voters that they've achieved that.

INSKEEP: Charlie Duxbury, correspondent for Politico Europe in Stockholm, thanks so much.

DUXBURY: Thank you.

(SOUNDBITE OF MUSIC) Transcript provided by NPR, Copyright NPR.