Upcoming Swedish snap election begs the question
Will anything change? Swedes are wondering to what extent parties have time to implement changes before the snap election scheduled for March 22, 2015 in the wake of a failed budget approval on Dec. 3. Given the timeframe until then — two of the three months fall in the coldest part of the year when few politicians see the value in door to door campaigning — there may not be time for too much to change. Löfvén has said that he (i.e. the Social Democrats and the Greens) would campaign with the same budget they just lost a vote on in parliament, which may seem overly optimistic. The cooperation with the Green Party may become another hurdle for the acting Prime Minister. The Green Party has famously recently profiled itself by saying no to popular reforms such as the planned "Stockholm Bypass" and have pushed for a closing of the local Stockholm Bromma airport.
But there are a couple novelties in the election: The Sweden Democrats (SD), who are considered by many to be responsible for blocking the budget, seem determined for the new election campaign to be entirely a matter of immigration policy; and voters have the benefit of going into the next election already knowing how the current leadership governs.
While other parties snubbed SD's request to make immigration and integration a campaign point of the snap election, the subject is at the forefront of election politics nonetheless. There is pressure from within and without to change the immigration policy, not the least from inside the Social Democrats, which lost voters to SD's conservative stance on immigration in the September election.
No matter their perspective on it, voters are saying the politicians need to address immigration. Currently none of the centre-right or centre-left parties are against Sweden's liberal immigration laws, which have resulted in an influx of more refugees per capita in Sweden than any other nation in the EU. And though many view SD as xenophobic, the nationalist party drew enough voters in September to make it the third largest political group in parliament. Mattias Karlsson has been the Sweden Democrats’ acting leader since Jimmie Åkesson took an indefinite sick leave in September. Though it is not known whether Åkesson will return in time for the March election, Karlsson made immediate and significant changes within SD, with a goal of getting an "absolute balance of power" in single-issue politics. That issue is immigration. They could gain even more momentum in the March election if they are the only party openly planning immigration reforms.
This momentum is pushing along while Anna Maria Kinberg Batra is expected to succeed Fredrik Reinfeldt as the leader of the second largest political party, the centre-right Moderates (M), when Reinfeldt formally steps down, at the party's conference on January 10. Though Batra hasn't announced changes to tighten the party's immigration policy, she hasn’t indicated other plans, either. Her election would mean she would lead the campaign against Social Democrat leader and Prime Minister Stefan Löfven in the snap election. This could prove historically significant in even more ways, as Batra would be poised to be Sweden’s first female prime minister.

The world is watching
Although political parties snubbed the Sweden Democrats’ request to make immigration a referendum in the snap election, former political leaders are calling on Sweden’s other political groups to engage in debates on immigration — or risk losing votes. And the issue is of high interest among other world leaders, too. Some hail Sweden for humanitarian efforts to welcome immigrants and refugees into the country, while others express concern over the diminishing resources the policy doesn’t account for.
Former Prime Minister and outgoing Moderate Party leader Fredrik Reinfeldt prevailed upon neighboring Denmark to welcome more refugees, too. After all, Nordic cities are heavily populated, but the countryside is vast and uninhabited. “There are endless fields and forests,” he said. “There's more space than you might imagine. Those who claim the country is full should demonstrate where it is full." But Danish politicians reject his idea.
“This is the first time I’ve heard that a country’s geographic size should determine how many people from distant lands can fit in. But space is not the problem — the problem is that we have huge economic and cultural challenges,” said Martin Geertsen, the integration spokesman for the Danish opposition party. “We want to do what is right for Denmark. It is about finding a balance, and that’s why we have a law proposal that will tighten our asylum policies.”
Reinfeldt tried to make his case, summing up one side of the debate that has been grappling Sweden: “Those who think security lies in everyone being the same, being homogenous and keeping out those who are different,” are not those with whom he wants to build a future.