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Former Swedish Prime Minister Stefan Löfven addressed the victory of the right-wing bloc in his country’s parliamentary election, calling the Sweden Democrats an “extremist right-wing party, a racist party,” during the first Harvard Institute of Politics forum of the semester on Wednesday.
Löfven’s remarks came just hours after his successor as prime minister of Sweden and fellow member of the Social Democratic Party, Magdalena Andersson, announced she would resign on Thursday, following election results that saw the far-right Sweden Democrats win 20 percent of the vote. Until recently, the Sweden Democrats were rejected by mainstream political rivals because of the party’s neo-Nazi roots.
The Social Democratic Party, which had been in government since Löfven began his tenure as prime minister in 2014, will continue to be led by Andersson in opposition.
“I’m scared,” Löfven said in an interview after the forum. “It is a huge mistake by the conservatives and liberals and the Christian Democrats to try to cooperate with these extremists.”
“As John F. Kennedy once said, if you try to ride on the tiger’s back, you end up in his belly,” Löfven added. “I think history has proven that.”
During the forum, Löfven said that the far-right’s resurgence in Europe is reminding people of fascism’s rise on the continent nearly a century ago.
“We have survivors from the Holocaust saying that we can now hear the same rhetoric, the same arguments that we heard in the 1930s,” Löfven said. “That is a very serious situation.”
The forum, which was moderated by IOP Interim Director Setti D. Warren, discussed democracy and the upcoming 2022 midterm elections. The event featured Löfven alongside the IOP’s six other resident fellows: Raul Alvillar, Gloria J. Browne-Marshall, Stephanie Carlton, Judith LeBlanc, Matthew Mead, and Natalie Tennant.
Alvillar, who served as New Mexico state director for Joe Biden’s 2020 presidential campaign, said abortion will propel Democrats in November.
“I want to talk about Dobbs 24/7,” Alvillar said, referring to the Supreme Court decision earlier this year that overturned Roe v. Wade, eliminating constitutional protections for abortion.
Alvillar said Republicans miscalculated by thinking the issue would “motivate and galvanize” their voter base.
“Instead, it has actually motivated the Democratic base — it has motivated men, it has motivated women, and most importantly, it has motivated young folks,” Alvillar added. “You can’t give somebody a right and then take it away.”
LeBlanc, the executive director of the Native Organizing Alliance, said in order to achieve change, it is important to remain politically engaged during the months between election cycles.
“These elections are very important, but the truth is that Election Day is only a snapshot of the balance of politics,” LeBlanc said. “Everything that happens between elections — on issues at the grassroots level — is what shapes the outcome of elections.”
LeBlanc said there are currently “a historic high number of Natives” running for both federal and local office.
“There is so much vibrancy at the tribal and grassroots level,” LeBlanc said. “People are engaged in issues and they understand that elections matter.”
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