9th Conference European Sociological Association

RN32 Political Sociology

2009-09-03 09:00:00 2009-09-03 10:30:00 Thursday, 3 September 09:00 - 10:30 The Extreme Right Building I, 2E10

"The Evil Other": European democracies and the challenge of radical right-wing populism - The Swedish example

Liberal democracies in Europe are facing a new challenge. Parties belonging to the radical right-wing party family have gained more political influence. Sweden is, in this context, no exception. Sverigedemokraterna (Swedish Democrats), the Swedish version of radical right-wing populism, is at the moment the largest political party outside the Swedish parliament. The success of Sverigedemokraterna implies a discussion on how the Swedish political system handles the presence of radical right-wing populism. The purpose of this paper is to discuss the relationship between radical right-wing populism and the democratic institutions in Europe generally and in Sweden particulary. The paper shows how Sverigedemokraterna is used as a marker by the Swedish political establishment; the party has become associated as something other parties do not want to be connected to. Sverigedemokraterna is being perceived as "the Evil Other", the pariah and is used as an instrument for the other political parties in order to distance themselves from each other. The existence of radical right-wing populism within the European political systems implies a thorough discussion on how to handle this existence in relation to the basis and values of the modern European democratic institutions. Regardless of whether Sverigedemokraterna are represented at the national level in Sweden or not, the fact remains that right-wing populist parties constitute a constant and definite part of today's European political scene - something that also either directly or indirectly affects Sweden's political agenda. As Sweden is a part of Europe, the European debate can also have repercussions for the Swedish political climate ? as a member of the EU Sweden can be compelled to align with issues discussed and debates undertaken in connection with European collaborations. The question is therefore how European democracies ought to react and act when right-wing populist parties not only make their appearance but also firmly establish themselves on the political stage. Should these parties be invited to actively participate in the democratic system so that their arguments can thereby be addressed and challenged? Or is it better to marginalize and isolate them and in this way exclude them from participation in the democratic process?