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How the Swedish left moved right

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September's general elections left Sweden with a hung parliament. Two months later, negotiations between parties have not resulted in a viable government. The deadlock is an effect of the new political skyline: Most notably, the old colossus of social democracy has eroded further as its supporters spread out across the surrounding landscape.

The Social Democratic Party, which once governed the country for 40 consecutive years, received an unprecedented low share of votes at 28.3 percent. Large parts of the party's voters have turned to the populist Sweden Democrats, who broke a new electoral record this year by gaining 17.6 percent of the votes - up from just 12.9 percent four years ago.

The elections clearly manifested a decoupling of workers from leftist politics, and many Swedes see the results and the following attempts by the Social Democrats to cobble together a government across the political centre as the latest humiliation for an increasingly irrelevant party.

In order to survive under neoliberal hegemony, Swedish and European social democracy have moved towards the political centre under the banner of supposedly post-conflict Third Way politics. This is actually an adoption of neoliberal ideology, justifying market liberalisation, privatisation and welfare degradation as the only alternative. Over time, the move has effectively narrowed the political field and resulted in rising inequality. Today, Sweden shows the largest growth in inequality among OECD-countries.

As mainstream parties have started to look more and more the same, right-wing populists have managed to use ethnocentric xenophobia, welfare chauvinism and contempt of elites to attract those disenchanted by consensus politics.

This process has been chronicled in decades of writing by post-Marxist political theorists Ernesto Laclau and Chantal Mouffe, who have found new renown as key thinkers on the present "populist moment". Mouffe, in a recent interview, stated bluntly: "In my view, those who are........

© Al Jazeera