by Ulf Nilson Nordstjernan, Sept. 15, 2010

In a little more than a week, on September 19, the Swedes are going to elect a new government. Or the same old government.
The stakes are high, they say, but I don't quite agree. Having spent the summer in the country (glorious weather the first part, then mediocre) I have returned to France with the strong conviction that
1. This election is the most bad tempered and dirty one I have ever experienced in my home country and
2. Whoever wins will not much matter―the country will plod on much the same way as before.
Sweden, rather than China is “the middle kingdom.” Each and every party, except the Sverige Demokraterna, tries to occupy the center, not too far to the right, not too far to the left (maybe the former communists are an exception here).
To give you a concrete idea, I will try a couple examples:
Sweden has among the highest taxes in the world. Yet nobody, not one of the candidates is for radical cuts. Small cuts here or there, a little tinkering, but radical cuts, no, no, no. That would be irresponsible, a word heavy as lead. The idea―shared by all―is that because Swedes pay these heavy taxes, we have the best doctors and hospitals, the best cars and feeding of the elderly and (here most people are not so sure) the best schools. And wonderful, wonderful, it is the same for everybody. There is equality.
To which I say: BS.
I live and pay taxes in France. This means that instead of paying 50,000 SEK (that's about 50 percent) every month to the tax man, I pay maybe 25,000. I can buy many good dinners for that money, and, yes, make a trip to that horribly unequal country, the U.S., from time to time. Doctors and hospitals, I should add, are more or less free in France, too, and according to everybody I know, generally better than their counterparts in Sweden.
So where does the money go?
Beats me.
Another example:
Sweden is a democracy, right? Yes, of course it is, but so is every country in the western world (except perhaps a few Latin American ones). And as this election has shown us, there certainly are limits to democracy in Sweden. The Sverige Demokraterna regularly receive more than 4 percent of the votes in the pre-voting polls. Since 4 percent is the limit (over 4, you go into Parliament, under 4, you stay out), there is every chance that the SD will get into Parliament this year. Not only that, chances are relatively high that they will be able to decide quite a lot by playing the two conventional blocks against each other. This, of course, ought to call for an intense debate to force the SD to reveal their true identity. Are they, as many say, some kind of facists? Do they hate immigrants?
But the questions remain unanswered. Why? Because the other parties refuse to debate the SD. They are to be forgotten, not talked about, as if they and the thousands of Swedes that are going to vote for them, simply did not exist.
The reason for this is that the SD is critical against immigration. Sweden has a problem, they say. The newcomers are over-represented among people on the dole and in the Swedish prisons; they commit rapes and other violent acts much more frequently than “normal” Swedes.
This everybody knows. But the fact that many Swedish suburbs (Rosengård in Malmö, Ronna in Södertälje and Hammarkullen in Göteborg) resemble war zones―where the firemen go only with police protection and ordinary Swedes never go―all this can not be discussed. If you write a piece like the one you are reading right now, you are branded a racist and a foe of the strangers. This seems a little strange to me, who has lived outside of the country, among non Swedes, for 47 years.
Sweden ought to have a massive program for integrating the “foreigners” but the situation is not even discussed in the campaign. The only conclusion I can arrive at is that most Swedes―and certainly the politicians―are dead scared of change. And so it matters little who wins. We will continue on what Marquis Childs once labelled “the middle way.” That was at least 40 years ago, if my recollection is correct. Anyway, it still holds ... but for how long....