KOPPARBERG, Sweden (Reuters) – Those wondering why Swedish politics are set to lurch to the right in Sunday’s election need look no further than Ljusnarsberg, a tiny central county of dense pine forests and glistening lakes.
Many inhabitants of this once-booming region are uneasy about asylum seekers after a large number arrived here in 2015. Some also feel that Sweden’s widely admired tax and welfare model has left them behind.
Fears over globalization’s effect on industrial jobs, the pressure of an aging population and a failure to integrate minorities have boosted right-wing and anti-establishment parties from Italy and Germany to Britain and the United States.
Polls indicating one in five voters in Sweden are likely to back a party with roots in the far-right fringe on Sept. 9 show that even seemingly successful political systems are vulnerable.
Several online surveys indicate the anti-immigration, anti-European Union Sweden Democrats could become the largest party, overtaking the Social Democrats, who have dominated politics for the last 100 years.
They are likely to do particularly well in Ljusnarsberg where they won a quarter of the vote in 2014, double their national score.
(Sweden Election graphic: https://tmsnrt.rs/2LmSZFD)
(Swedish economy snapshot: http://tmsnrt.rs/2bylYpf)
“I think people here want to see a change, they want society to be like it used to be,” said Mats Larsson, the Sweden Democrat’s top politician in Ljusnarsberg.
Most people in the county live in Kopparberg, where the 17th century church, with its blood-red, wooden facade and spires, hints at the region’s rich past, built on copper and iron mines.
For many years, the area was a heartland of the ruling Social Democrats. Its swing to the right highlights election themes of asylum and a split between poor rural or suburban areas home to immigrants and wealthy places like Stockholm.
(The abandoned Stallberg Mine in Stalldalen, Sweden June 26, 2018. REUTERS-Simon Christopher Johnson-REUTERS)