Advertising, Immigration, and Swedish Elections

Stockholm was subject last month to a political ad blitz, where more more than seven parties competed for and virtually roadblocked the TunnelBana ad space

Advertisement for the Social Democratic Labour Party of Sweden

"We Can Not Wait," says an ad for Sweden's oldest political party, the mainstream-left Social Democrats. This campaign targets students and recent graduates, calling for an elimination of the employment tax.

Ad for the Moderates

"The Moderates" are Sweden's center-right party. "Only a worker's party can fix jobs" read one ad. I repeat, this is Sweden's center-right party.

Ad for the Green Party

The Green Party's typographic ads focused on social issues like equal rights for gays and more substantial investments in renewable energy. The difference between the US and Swedish green parties is that the Swedish one has 25 seats in parliament.

Sweden’s swift Autumn has come and gone since my last post, so have the Swedish elections. You could say that my excuse for not posting, and Swedish election’s upset, are related.

You’ve probably heard about the Swedish Democrats. They’re conservative nationalists who swept into 20 of 349 Swedish parliamentary seats a few weeks ago. While the name “Swedish Democrats” sounds left, the party is actually far-right — comparible to America’s “Tea Party” — and their platform centers on limiting immigration. Founding members of the party, now regarded for their anti-Muslim rhetoric, publicly brandished Nazi uniforms just twenty years ago.

Most of Sweden was shocked that the SD’s actually got parliamentary seats and a voting influence on policy. Sure, my friends here in Sweden (even the immigrants) acknowledge that immigration poses real and complex choices for Scandinavia, and they’re familiar with their grandparents’ rants. Still they’re still shocked that the bigoted wolf-in-sheep’s-clothing earned parliamentary seats. They’re also thankful, that the other parliamentary parties — the Social Democrats, Center Party, Christian Democrats, etc. — have agreed to lose a few seats to each other, to effectively nullify the Swedish Democrats’ votes. The anti-immigration debate here, like anti-Mexican, anti-Muslim rhetoric in the US, is emerging from the shadows. On the other hand, maybe Sweden won’t have it in the long run. There’s a feeling that apathy and complacency let this happen, and now daily protests against the party signal vociferous opposition in next election.

I suppose I should tell you then about my little immigration drama, even if by now it bores Chesley and me and some people around us to tears. Of course, we’re not victims of ethnic or religious bigotry (even the American embassy mistook me for Swedish.) We’re victims of terribly bureaucratic, inflexible immigration policy. Immigration policy that Swedish Democrats, like those lost souls who patrol the US-Mexico border, would like to see become more stringent, and less flexible.

Last May, Chesley and I applied to Sweden, in accordance with the Migration Board’s laundry list of requirements. At first we were told we were approved, and then told we were denied, because I hadn’t proved payment of my school tuition — never mind that I hadn’t even been invoiced yet from my school, or that it’s not a written Migration Board requirement. We came anyway on tourist visas because I had to start school. From Sweden we submitted an appeal to our rejection which was arbitrated by the Swedish Court. They sent the case back to the Migration Board, saying that the Migration Board should have kicked us out of the country because we came to Sweden with an open visa application. Lots of paperwork ensued. Lots of pleading. Lots of me saying, “what can I do to be allowed to spend my money here for a few more months?” I’ll spare you the boring details, but two days ago when Chesley and I squeezed onto a RyanAir jet for London, we didn’t know if we would be coming back. Finally, yesterday, after corresponding with one of the first human beings we’ve encountered at the Migration Board, Chesley and I were granted our visas.

I’ll say this: I love London. We’re eating really well. I also love Stockholm, not for this experience, but for everything else. We’ll be 100% legal and returning next week. Sometime soon I’ll tell you about this educational utopia called Hyper Island.

Posted in

2 Responses to “Advertising, Immigration, and Swedish Elections”

  1. John Gardner says:

    Glad I was ignorant about your visa troubles. Would have spoiled sleep. I”m sorry Mona Sahlin couldn’t put together a winning coalition. From the distance of the New York Times and Mancheser Guardian, she looked like a promising leader. And it is very, very sad to see Sweden, of all nations, the world asylum leader, with a coalition that includes proudly declared xenophobe.

    On the other hand, maybe some American Democrats can grab that Fixa Jobben slogan. A lot of people would vote for candidates who can fixa jobben.

    Look forward to reading about Hyper Island.

  2. I love that you were mistaken for Swedish by the embassy. I have to admit, I sometimes mistake you for Swedish. And I’m your brother.

    Like you, I was watching the American midterms with one eye on local elections in my current home. It’s bizarre to think of what constitutes “left-wing” politics in the US when you live in India. Kerala is currently run by the democratically-elected Communist Party of India-Marxist (as opposed to the Communist Party of India, which the CPIM broke away from but still works with). Their biggest competition is the Congress Party, which was founded by Indian nationalists in the 19th century and, under Nehru’s leadership, wrote the constitution for India to be a “sovereign socialist secular democratic republic”. I guess you could legitimately call them socialists. There is the far-right Hindu nationalist Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP) as well, who are gaining some ground in the wealthier parts of Kerala. But the real elections always come down to the communists versus the socialists. So it’s weird to hear the word “socialist” thrown at centrist-to-a-fault, free-market-loving Democrats, when I just saw an election with real socialists. What’s wrong with us?

    For the record, the Congress Party was the big winner, though the BJP is gaining ground…

Leave a Note