Sweden’s far-right Sweden Democrats have surged in polls ahead of legislative elections in two weeks, reflecting growing support for the party’s anti-immigration policies and tough stance on crime.
The party has the second largest share of voter support ahead of the September 11 vote, trailing the ruling Social Democrats, which have dominated Swedish post-war politics.
The Sweden Democrats polled between 20 and 23 percent in three different surveys published this week, overtaking the conservative Moderate party in the close race.
Candidates have been vying for support among voters who say that crime is a top concern, followed by immigration and segregation issues.
Prime Minister Magdalena Andersson’s Social Democrats enjoyed a lead with around 30 percent of voter support, according to the polls.
Her party, long defenders of the country’s cherished welfare state, has in recent years curbed immigration and campaigned on tackling gang-related crime.
The conservative Moderate party, traditionally the second most popular party, came in third with between 16 and 18 percent of voter support.
Moderates leader Ulf Kristersson is challenging Andersson for the post of prime minister.
Sweden has struggled to contain deadly shootings and bombings that have soared in recent years, many linked to gang rivalries or organised criminals battling over the drug market.
The far-right Sweden Democrats have been shunned since entering parliament in 2010 over their historic ties to neo-Nazi movements.
But with violence and crime dominating voters’ concerns, the right-wing bloc, made up of the Moderates, Christian Democrats and Liberals, is now ready to cooperate with the Sweden Democrats to wrest power from the Social Democrats.
The Social Democrats are meanwhile relying on support from the Left, Centre and Green parties, with the two blocs neck-and-neck in the polls.