Immigrants anxious over rise of Swedish far-right

Camille BAS-WOHLERT
Twin sisters pose as their parents vote in the Swedish general election in the Stockholm suburb of Rinkeby

"I'm not afraid, but I am worried," Hassan Abdullahi said while distributing voting papers at a polling station in a disadvantaged Stockholm suburb, as the far-right was set to win record support in Swedish elections Sunday.

With roots in the neo-Nazi movement, the Sweden Democrats (SD), who call the arrival of asylum-seekers a threat to Swedish culture and vow to end dual nationality for non-Nordic citizens, could win up to 25 percent of the vote nationally.

"Their roots are Nazi and we know what Nazism has done in Europe," Abdullahi, a member of the ex-Communist Left party, told AFP as he handed out ballots to families arriving at the polling station in a school in the mostly-immigrant populated Rinkeby.

In this northern suburb dominated by apartment blocks, Misky, a 19-year-old girl wearing a green headscarf, is voting for the first time.

"Many of my friends became interested in voting when they saw how huge the SD were," she told AFP. "This scares me a bit."

More than 80 percent of Rinkeby's population is of immigrant origin.

SD's nationalist leader Jimmie Akesson, who once called Muslims "our greatest foreign threat since the Second World War", on Saturday said he feared "the application of Islamic Sharia law in Swedish courts".

At the Rinkeby mosque, worshippers are encouraged to vote, says Mohamad, a 21-year-old student.

He says he "no longer trusts the Social Democrats" who have been in power for four years.

Incumbent Prime Minister Stefan Lofven's Social Democrats won nearly 70 percent of the neighbourhood's vote in the 2014 election, but only 50 percent of voters bothered to vote.

- 'They come from dictatorship' -

Mohamed Issak, a transport worker in his fifties, lamented the fact that many people in the neighbourhood do not vote.

"It probably depends on their origin... if we do not have the opportunity to vote in our native countries, then we do not necessarily think about voting here", he said.

For Amineh Kakabaveh, an Iranian Kurdish ex-Peshmerga fighter who is now a left-wing Swedish MP, said most immigrants "come from a dictatorship".

"They never had their voices heard and are very suspicious of institutions," she told AFP.

Babou Ngie, 45, believes the residents have now begun to mobilise themselves.

"We are going in the right direction, it is very important now when the extremist parties are more popular."

Rinkeby frequently makes headlines for gang shootings and juvenile delinquency. More than seven percent of locals are unemployed, over twice the average for Stockholm.

In Rinkeby's main square in front of the metro entrance, people go about their daily business, buying fruit and vegetables.

Women, some wearing burkas covering their entire face, talk to each other while youngsters relax in kebab shop.

Here in Rinkeby, the SD won barely three percent in the previous election, but according to a May survey by the government agency Statistics Sweden, 11.3 percent of Swedes born abroad nationally expressed sympathy for the party.