Harassment and Threats, Concern and Fear: the Experiences of Local Politicians in Ludvika, Sweden

Lars Korsell, Tomas Axelson, Liselotte Frisk, Jonas Stier

Abstract


Sweden has a history of a stable party system, democracy, consensus, welfare and few labour market conflicts. But after the election in 2014, the Ludvika municipality in Sweden found itself in an unusual situation: a representative from a neo-Nazi party – the Nordic Resistance Movement (NRM) – held a seat in its local political council. The party, and its movement, are the most prominent representative of violent white supremacy in Sweden, known not least for its fear-mongering tactics. Between November 1, 2017 and August 31, 2018, Dalarna University conducted a study using questionnaires and interviews within the Ludvika municipality to investigate the sense of safety felt by elected representatives of both the political council and the municipal boards. An anticipated result might have been that the NRM presence in the municipal assembly has strongly impacted on the politicians’ sense of safety – and also has increased political tensions. To a certain extent, this proved to be the case. However, Ludvika politicians must also contend with other sources of and reasons for mockery, harassment and threats: predominantly “angry citizens” due to controversial decisions, personal conflicts within established parties relating to the choice of personnel, and a contempt for in particular some extreme right wing political opinions.. The results regarding the sense of safety and vulnerability are very much in line with national figures. Even overall, Swedish politicians at the national, regional and local levels are aware of pressure from right-wing extremists, who distribute propaganda that often incorporates blame, an exposing of individuals and violent language. The result from Ludvika should therefore be seen as one of degree rather than of type, as the situation is worse here than in other municipal councils in Sweden. A conclusion that can be drawn from the study is that the political debate is heading in an increasingly antagonistic direction, where ideological adversaries are regarded more as enemies than as legitimate opponents. While in the long term this can pose a threat to democracy, positive counter-responses were found in Ludvika that can serve to support the democratic position.


Keywords


Sweden; Right-Wing Extremism; Municipality; Threats

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