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Swedish anti-immigrant group surges

Associated Press / September 17, 2010

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STOCKHOLM — Polls show an anti-immigration party is likely to enter Sweden’s Parliament for the first time in elections Sunday, despite attempts by vuvuzela-blowing protesters to disrupt the nationalist group’s campaign rallies.

The Sweden Democrats are warning that lenient immigration policies are threatening the country’s welfare system, and a series of recent surveys shows the party has climbed above the 4 percent threshold necessary to enter to the legislature.

That could create disarray if neither the center-right government nor the left-wing opposition wins a majority in the 349-seat assembly, because neither side wants to rely on the support of the Sweden Democrats.

In the final days of campaigning, both blocs have warned voters against bringing the party into Parliament, saying it represents xenophobic views that don’t belong in a country seen as tolerant and welcoming to refugees.

Jimmie Akesson, the leader of the Sweden Democrats, advocates sharp cuts in immigration and has called Islam the greatest foreign threat to Swedish society since World War II.

About 14 percent of Sweden’s 9.4 million residents are foreign-born.

The biggest waves of immigration have come from Finland, Iraq, the former Yugoslavia, and Poland.

Hundreds of protesters tried to drown out Akesson’s speech in Stockholm yesterday by chanting and making noise with vuvuzelas — plastic horns of the kind used by spectators at the World Cup in South Africa.

Several other rallies have been canceled or interrupted because police feared violence by demonstrators.

About 12,000 immigrants countrywide walked out of their jobs for five minutes yesterday as part of a Facebook protest against the Sweden Democrats, organizer Damon Rasti said.

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