When the Swedes go to vote in the national election in September, they may find themselves in the midst of unprecedented political upheaval. A new party is on the ballot, and it could get as much as 20% of the votes.
There is nothing dramatic per se about a new party. Of the eight parties currently holding seats in the Riksdag—the Swedish Parliament—the conservative Swedish democrats entered as recently as 2010. They grew rapidly, coming within stone’s throw of clinching the spot as the second-largest party in 2018.
What is unique about the new party emerging in the 2022 election cycle is that it springs from the Islamist environment in Sweden.
The name of the party is Nyans, a Swedish word that is often translated into English as “nuance.” However, it has a deeper moral meaning than its standard English counterpart. To say in Swedish that you see the “nyanser” (plural form) in something, is to admit that you are willing to compromise, to give up principled positions and agree with your opponent.
As any student of Swedish culture knows, to a Swede this is the highest of virtues. In other words, the new Islamist party was very deliberate about its choice for a name.
There is no doubt that Nyans has ties to the Islamist environment, both in Sweden and abroad. In 2018, the party chairman, Mikail Yüksel, was a candidate for the Riksdag for another party. He was ousted and lost his spot on the ballot when it became publicly known that he had ties to the Turkish Grey Wolves. He reportedly maintains close ties with President Erdogan.
The party protested when the city council in Gothenburg unanimously decided to call upon the national school oversight agency to close the Safirskolan. … The school’s permit was revoked by the agency already at the end of 2019. Part of the reason was that the former principal and owner was one of six violence-promoting islamist extremists who were arrested by Säpo [state security police] and ordered expelled by court.
The news site Ledarsidorna.se, run by former military intelligence officer Johan Westerholm, has published numerous articles on Islamism in Sweden. In December last year, they reported that Nyans had started its campaign for the 2022 election, albeit in Turkey (our translation):
Some time ago Mikail Yüksel and the party Nyans started their 2022 election campaigning in [the Turkish city of] Kulu. This is documented by photos that have been sent to Ledarsidorna.se. Nyans has been able to do this likely because of the documented, close ties that Yüksel personally has to President Erdogan’s AKP [Justice and Development Party] and its media platforms.
There are up to 20,000 Turks with Swedish citizenship in Kulu. Many of them are from families who came to Sweden during the immigration wave of the 1960s and 1970s, and later returned to the country where they had been born or had family roots.
The article also explains how it is practically impossible for foreign politicians to gain access to Turkey without explicit approval from President Erdogan’s own party.
While campaigning openly in Turkey, Nyans has kept a low profile in Sweden. That is changing though, in more ways than one. Nyans actively participates in a campaign on social media against Swedish family services agencies. The news site doku.nu reports on how unfounded allegations are being made of child protective services engaging in anti-muslim activities:
In closed groups with tens of thousands of members, conspiracy theories flow and Sweden is fiercely attacked: The social services kidnap Muslim children to secularize them as part of the war against Islam. Well-known names in the radical Islamist environment participate and excite distrust against society and public officials.
It is falsely being claimed that Muslim children are relocated to Christian homes where they are forced to eat pork and drink alcohol. However, it is correct that children are being taken by child protective services, under a law known by the acronym LVU. This law, which is similar to laws in other countries that permit the removal of children from abusive homes, has been used to help girls in Muslim families escape forced marriages and other misogynist expressions of Islamic culture.
As doku.nu reports, Nyans ignores this application of the law, devoting instead “a large part of its work” to a campaign against LVU as such.
The campaign appears to be working. On February 5th, Yüksel tweeted from a meeting with the party’s local candidates for office, praising strong turnout:
Full house at the meeting in Skåne as well. Soon we will take over all of Skåne, leading with Malmö.
Skåne is the third most populous county in Sweden, with almost 1.4 million residents. Malmö is home to almost 350,000 people and by far the biggest city in Skåne. If Nyans does well there, it will very likely do well in the other big cities and counties.
No party needs a majority of the votes to become influential. With the proportionate parliamentary system Sweden uses, it is unusual for one party to get a majority of the seats in any elected body. It is common practice that the largest party gets to take the executive office, and they usually do so in coalition with one or two more parties. This gives Nyans a good chance to gain real political influence in the large cities, where it appears to be concentrating most of its campaign.
Nyans has done its electoral arithmetic. A party needs 4% of the votes nationally to gain seats in the Riksdag, or 12% in one electoral district. The three largest counties in Sweden, home to the three largest cities of Stockholm, Gothenburg, and Malmö, have about half the country’s population. At least in theory, this means that an average, and entirely realistic, vote share of 20% in these three countries could put Nyans at 10% in the Riksdag election.
Undoubtedly, Nyans will also gain votes outside of the three largest counties. Rural parts of Sweden have seen major immigration over the past 20 years, in particular from Muslim countries. Although unlikely, there is a possibility that Nyans manages to get as much as one third of the votes in the three most populous counties; if it also reach a vote share above the Riksdag threshold in the rest of the country, it could win as many as 20% of the seats in the parliament.
Again, it is unlikely that Nyans will gain this much support, but it is by no means impossible. With its outreach abroad and devoted targeting of immigrant communities around Sweden, campaigning in immigrant languages, Nyans has become a genuine dark horse in the 2022 election.
Should it reach 20%, it will completely upset the political landscape in Sweden. It would put Nyans in play for a coalition government, especially since it would be peeling votes off from the social democrats which came in first in 2018 with 28% of the votes. The center-right moderate party came in second at 20% and the conservative Swedish democrats won 17.5% of the votes. Five smaller parties shared the rest of the seats in the parliament.
There are no detailed statistics in Sweden that distinguish voters by race and ethnicity. However, with the social democrats often gaining 50-70% of the votes in immigrant-heavy electoral districts, they stand to lose by far the most to Nyans. An unlikely but not impossible scenario emerges where four political parties could end up in the 15-20% neighborhood in the September election.
This would include the social democrats. Their two support parties, the left and the greens, also do well with immigrants; if they, too, lose substantially to Nyans, the traditional left-leaning coalition in parliament could be reduced to as little as 25%.
On the other side of the ideological aisle, the Swedish democrats are known as vocally opposed to immigration. They would likely benefit from the rise of Nyans, attracting more immigration-skeptic votes from other center-right parties. It is not at all unrealistic to expect them to reach 20%.
With the moderates also gaining support from the smaller right-of-center parties, and with Nyans possibly picking up as many as 20% of the votes nationwide, the Riksdag would have four parties of virtually equal size.
After an election, the speaker of the parliament always asks the leader of the biggest party to try to form a government. In this hypothetical scenario, that could be any of the four party leaders, including Mikail Yüksel from Nyans.
In other words, there is a scenario, however unlikely, where Sweden could have a Muslim prime minister after the election in September.
One of the arguments against this scenario is that the social democrats have been reinvigorated under their new leader, Magdalena Andersson. Her party is currently polling around 30%, though that is unlikely to be the election result. Nevertheless, the most probable outcome in September is that her party is tarnished by voter flight to Nyans but still comes out ahead. This means that Andersson is given the nod to form the next government.
At that point, she will need to form a coalition. If the green party fails to win enough votes for seats in the next Riksdag, as current polls suggest, the social democrats can only look to the left party as a reliable coalition partner.
Bluntly, Andersson would be forced to negotiate a coalition with Nyans.
In other words, if Nyans does not excel, but only does reasonably well in September, it will be within reach of the prime minister’s cabinet. The social democrats have a penchant for forming single-party minority governments, but it is unlikely that Nyans would accept to simply be a supporting leg. If they do not get more than 10% of the votes, they are still likely to be demanding in terms of supporting a social-democrat prime minister.
Today, Swedes in general will say it is unthinkable to have an Islamist party in government. Yet if the average Swedish voter had been asked four years ago about the prospect of an Islamist party even running in an election, he or she would have dismissed it as pure fantasy.
Not everyone has been so naive as to ignore the rise of Islamism in Sweden. In 2017, British newspaper Daily Mail warned of the Muslim Brotherhood’s ambitions to create a “parallel social structure” in Sweden. The purpose, the Daily Mail explained, was to prevent Muslims from integrating into Swedish society.
In June 2019, Per Garthon, co-founder of the Swedish green party, raised concerns about growing Islamist political influence in Sweden. Writing for the large newspaper Aftonbladet, and presenting a vision of a growing Muslim population in Sweden, Garthon asked:
Is it, then, time to press the brakes if we want to make sure that our grandchildren are not governed by a kalif and Islamic law (shari’a) which discriminates against women and doles out savagely corporal punishments to criminals (hudud)? Maybe there is already an organized Islamist power grade underway within Swedish political parties?
His conclusion was that it was premature to sound the alarm bell, but that “one should not be naive” about the threat from political Islamism. With Nyans well positioned to make deep inroads in the electorate, it is perhaps time for Garthon to sound that alarm bell.
Sven R. Larson is a political economist and author. He received a Ph.D. in Economics from Roskilde University, Denmark. Originally from Sweden, he lives in America where for the past 16 years he has worked in politics and public policy. He has written several books, including Democracy or Socialism: The Fateful Question for America in 2024.