The Growth of the Radical Right in Nordic Countries: Observations from the Past 20 Years
Although recent elections across Europe have drawn much attention to the radical right, such parties are hardly new in most Nordic countries. Denmark, Finland, and Norway have radical-right parties that trace their roots back to at least the 1970s. And while they emerged more recently in Sweden, the Sweden Democrats firmly established themselves at the national level in 2010. What has changed in recent years is the level of popular support and political power these parties have enjoyed, holding close to or more than 20 percent of the vote in all four Nordic countries studied.
This report analyzes the rise and current dynamics of radical-right parties in Denmark, Finland, Norway, and Sweden. In all four, immigration has become a core policy area for the radical right. But the electoral success of such parties cannot be tied neatly back to shifting levels of immigration or to public opinion of immigrants. A web of other factors—including how the parties are managed and the personalities of their leaders—are also at play.
In responding to the growth in popularity of parties such as Danish People’s Party and the Progress Party in Norway, mainstream parties have taken three main approaches: co-opting radical-right policies in an attempt to win over their opponents’ voters, accommodating the parties in government, or isolating them by excluding them from governing coalitions. Yet, the author notes, there is little consistent evidence of which of these approaches (if any) are effective. And just as immigration is likely to remain high on the political agenda in these countries, radical-right parties are likely to continue to influence migration policy debates.
II. Brief History and Electoral Performance of Nordic Radical-Right Parties
A. Origins of Nordic Radical-Right Parties
B. The Politicization of Immigration
III. Explaining the Electoral Success of the Radical Right
A. Growing Electoral Support for Radical-Right Parties
B. The Influence of Immigration and Asylum Flows on Support for Radical-Right Parties
C. Other Factors in the Success of the Radical Right
IV. The Influence of Radical-Right Parties on Policy and the Political Debate
A. Direct Influence on Policy
B. Indirect Influence on the Political Climate and Public Debate
C. Mainstream Party Strategies for Responding to the Radical Right