Centre-Right Liberals and National Conservatives Cooperate in Sweden – Can They in EU?

Politics - February 25, 2024

In Sweden the cooperation between Centre-right parties (EPP / RE) and the new social conservative party Sweden Democrats (ECR) works so well that voters increasingly see them as a natural government alternative. The cooperation has exceeded expectations. Can it happen in the European Parliament after the elections in June?

The collaboration has even gone so far that the electorate in Sweden sees the Sweden Democrats as a “bourgeois” party. According to a recent opinion poll, half of the respondents regard the Sweden Democrats as “bourgeois”.

The voters may have gone a little too far here. But it is not difficult to understand. The voters consider the term “bourgeois” only as a label for the cooperation of parties to take government power from the Social Democrats, who are the main opponents.

Bourgeois does not equal non-socialist

We have two sides in Swedish politics, where one side is dominated by the Social Democrats and the Left and Green Parties. On the other side, the Moderates and Liberals are the traditionally bourgeois. The Christian Democrats want to see their ideological position as their own, just as the Center Party once saw itself as rural conservatives. But they cooperated in parliament to achieve a majority for a government that was precisely non-socialist.

Now the Sweden Democrats are emerging as a leading force on the Reds’ opposing side. Then it becomes easy to interpret it as a bourgeois party. Not least because you cooperate with bourgeois parties. And a central part of being bourgeois is being non-socialist.

But bourgeois has several dimensions that do not match the Christian Democrats, the Center Party or the Sweden Democrats. These three parties have always had the strongest voter support outside the big cities, and even more so in rural areas. The Center Party has lost it to the Sweden Democrats and their future is uncertain, when they are now also seen as a support party for the Social Democrats.

The workers’ electorate central

There are also other socio-economic dimensions here where the Sweden Democrats differ from bourgeois Centre-right parties. For example, the Sweden Democrats have significant support from working-class voters. It is a large group, of more than ten percentage points of the electorate, who left the Social Democrats and started voting for the Sweden Democrats.

It is the Sweden Democrats’ attractiveness among workers that brought about the current government in Sweden. In the same way that Margaret Thatcher’s conservatism attracted large groups of workers away from the Socialist Party, the Sweden Democrats has great confidence among workers, even among union members.

In the cooperation between the Centre-right government and the Sweden Democrats, the latter have been able to guarantee social benefits for the unemployed and sick in the state budget in a way that would not otherwise have happened.

Global Citizen vs. National

The Sweden Democrats are social conservatives with nationalist views. Bourgeois have often wanted to see themselves as globalists, as “anywhere” as opposed to “somewhere” who are rooted in their national culture and traditions.

But this difference is now bridged by the fact that the globalists in the Centre-right parties have realized that the zeal for globalization has gone too far and that the national rule of law must be re-established. The somewheres got it right. The national perspective is now superseded by globalism.

It also means that socio-economic differences play a smaller role. The rich and the less wealthy can work together to save national unity. The rich are beginning to understand that you need security at home in order to be strong in the international arena. Entrepreneurs must not suffer from the violence and corruption of criminals in the home country if they are to be able to compete abroad.

Globalism weakens societal preparedness

The pandemic also showed that secure supply chains become difficult to maintain on a global level when crises occur. Each looks after his own house. Therefore, more and more people have understood that preparedness and self-sufficiency are not aspects that belong to the 20th century, but are important for society not to fail. Then production is required in one’s own country or in the surrounding area. This becomes especially important when it comes to life-sustaining products, everything from medicines to fuel to heat homes with.

The downsides of globalization are now emerging with full force. Then it becomes more natural for traditional Centre-right parties to cooperate with national and conservative parties.

As far as the labels are concerned, it is probably more correct to say that the bourgeois parties have become more nationally conservative. After all, they are the ones who are forced to change by reality, while the Sweden Democrats make the same political analysis now as they did ten, twenty years ago.

The question is what will happen in the European Parliament after the elections in June. Will the traditional Centre-right parties understand the importance of working with the national and conservative parties? Sweden is a good example of how this can happen. The Tidö agreement regulates the cooperation that makes the government work. And it has worked better than most commentators thought possible.