The center-left bloc that has been governing Sweden since 2014 failed to gain a majority in the general election on Sunday. The far-right Sweden Democrats (SD) has for the first time become the largest party on the right, although it is not yet clear how a new government will be formed. Meanwhile, a minor party established in Gothenburg managed to make itself heard on election night. The Islamist Nyans (Nuance) Party, founded by an immigrant who came to Sweden from Turkey in 2001, received a higher-than-expected number of votes from several immigrant neighborhoods. According to many, this is an indication of failures in integration and may cause a political crisis in the future.
The Nyans Party (Partiet Nyans or PNy), founded and chaired by Turkish-Swedish politician Mikail Yüksel, who was expelled from the liberal Center Party (Centerpartiet) in 2018 due to his relations with violent Turkish nationalist group the Grey Wolves, achieved success in several neighborhoods of Sweden’s big cities of Stockholm, Malmö and Gothenburg. This situation, which was not reflected in recent pre-election polls, came as a surprise to many political experts who agree that immigrants in Sweden generally prefer established parties.
Nyans performed much better than many established parties in the Rosengård district of Malmö, Rinkeby in Stockholm and in Gothenburg’s Västra Hisingen and Svarte Mosse. Nyans’ candidate was not elected to the city council in Malmö by a small margin of votes. Nyans is believed to have received the votes primarily from supporters of the Left Party (Vänsterpartiet) and Social Democrats (Socialdemokraterna). Nyans’ figures will certainly increase with votes from Swedish citizens abroad and early voting ballots that haven’t yet arrived at the polling stations. However, it is unlikely that Yüksel or another Nyans candidate will be elected to the Swedish Parliament.
Yüksel, 40, from the Kulu district of Konya, from where 40 percent of the Turks and Kurds who have immigrated to Sweden hail, settled in Sweden due to marriage in 2001. He started his education in political science at Gothenburg University after working at a number of jobs. Yüksel got into politics with the Center Party, which he says he felt close to since it was multicultural and the party of villagers in Sweden.
In an interview he gave to Turkey’s state-run Anadolu news agency, Yüksel claimed he was expelled from the party because he refused to make a statement against Turkey’s President Recep Tayyip Erdoğan and Turkey in 2018. Considering that Yüksel was at the top of the parliamentary list along with party leader Annie Lööf, his dismissal caused quite a stir in Sweden at the time.
Yüksel denies that Nyans is an Islamist party and says it believes in a multicultural society. According to Yüksel, Islamophobia, integration and housing problems are the core issues they attach the most importance to. Yüksel also advocates for official minority status for Muslims, the same as Jews. The Nyans Party has recently appeared at support meetings for families whose children have been put in the care of Swedish Social Services (Socialtjänsten). According to Nyans, Muslims are discriminated against when children are taken from their parents on the grounds that they are mistreated. In addition, children who are placed with foster families lose their Muslim identities.
Almost all the candidates on the Nyans list are Muslims. There are very few Swedes on the list, which includes Muslims of Turkish, Somali and Balkan origin. The party, which has not yet been able to complete its nationwide organization, had to nominate the same person in several cities. According to a report in the Swedish media, there was a significant number of criminals and Muslim Brotherhood-affiliated persons among the Nyans candidates.
For instance, Bashir Aman Ali, the founder of the Al-Azhar Foundation who ran for the Riksdag (Swedish Parliament) in the city of Stockholm, was sentenced to four-and-a-half years in prison in 2019 for allowing 10 million kronor (around $900,000) to be taken out of the foundation illegally to start an Islamic bank. Ali claimed during the election campaign that Muslims in Sweden can be “imprisoned without a trial or evidence.”
According to a news story published on the website of the state-funded Sveriges Radio (Swedish Public Radio) on September 1 , Yüksel was convicted in a Turkish court of a minor assault of a relative in 2009 and ordered to pay compensation.
Although Nyans received a high percentage of the vote in some districts of big cities, these rates don’t correspond to a large number of voters because these constituencies are not heavily populated. However, on election night, pundits and social media users commented on this unusual situation for Sweden.
Many right-wing voters voice concern that an Islamist party has become popular among immigrants. Political experts predict that it is likely for Nyans to enter parliament in future elections, surpassing the electoral threshold, which is only 4 percent. Right-wing voters also see it as the failure of integration, blaming leftist governments.
A number of social media users think the Nyans case is exaggerated because some want the rise of the SD not to be discussed nationwide, arguing that the racist, extremist and anti-Semitic SD is a bigger problem for Sweden.
Social media commenters also think some people voted for Nyans to protest the local authorities that allowed far-right groups to burn copies of the Quran, especially in neighborhoods where a large number of Muslims reside.
Some voters are worried about the rise of both the SD and Nyans at the same time. For instance, the Jewish Youth Association in Sweden tweeted on Monday, “It is clear that we are getting an increasingly polarized society. Our second largest party [SD] had 200 candidates with Nazi connections on their lists and in Malmö, the chances look great for Nyans to get into the council. Scary times.”
The fact that Yüksel is Turkish Islamist brings to mind his relations with Turkey and its ruling party. He defines Nyans as a friend of Turkey. He wants the conditions put forward by Turkey to be fulfilled in return for approval of Sweden’s NATO membership. He also sees the groups that Turkey considers terrorists to actually be terrorists. However, due to the bitter experience he had with the Center Party, he seems to be careful and cautious about Turkey and Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdoğan.
In February, Nordic Monitor reported that Erdoğan had asked his party members living in Europe to organize and create mechanisms that would affect politics in the countries in which they live.
Erdoğan also said if they are united, no state, party or organization in Europe can impose anything on them, adding that they will become a community that can’t be ignored.