After years of criticism, Ulf Kristesson, the leader of the liberal-conservative Moderate Party, has apologised to immigration critics for the unfair treatment they've received in a lengthy Facebook post.
Contrary to Social Democrat Prime Minister Stefan Löfven, who recently landed in hot water for vocally denying any connection between escalating violent crime and immigration, Ulf Kristersson emphasised that “long-standing uncontrolled immigration” had indeed “driven serious crime”.
“To the extent that my party has contributed to blaming and ostracising the voices who wanted and dared to raise these problems, they deserve my and my party's unreserved apology”, Kristersson wrote in a historic statement, admitting that his party is also culpable for the present-day situation. “The responsibility for the many years of unthinkable politics, and the inability to deal with the problems, is shared by many. Including my party, the Moderates”, Kristersson admitted.
According to Kristersson, this negative development “could have been foreseen”, and many voiced their immigration concerns in the 1990s.
“The problems of high immigration and poor integration – coupled with the long-term risks of deep exclusion, strong social tensions and serious crime – have been highlighted by many and in a constructive way. So the developments have been very predictable. However, too many politicians have overlooked this for too long”, Kristersson wrote.
By Kristersson's own admission, his party “should have acted earlier, clearer, and more powerful”.
“Looking back and learning from mistakes and errors is thus necessary. But not enough. One must also take responsibility through clear political review and concrete action”, Kristersson wrote.
Many welcomed Kristersson's change of rhetoric.
“Feels very good to me and other Moderates who were strongly critical during the Alliance years and received a lot of internal criticism for this”, MP Jan Ericsson tweeted.
Detta är viktigt. Ulf Kristersson ber om ursäkt för moderaternas tidigare migrationspolitik. Känns väldigt bra för mig och andra moderater som var starkt kritiska under Alliansåren och fick mycket intern kritik för detta. https://t.co/8tzmnVRig7— Jan Ericson (@Ericson_ubbhult) 19 ноября 2019 г.
“Is the apology only addressed to fellow party members or the Sweden Democrats as well?” right-wing Sweden Democrat legal spokesman Adam Marttinen tweeted. For their opposition to immigration, the Sweden Democrats have long been relegated to being pariahs in the Swedish Parliament despite optimising their vote with each election.
Är ursäkten endast riktad till enskilda borgerliga eller även riktad till SD och SD:are?#svpol— Adam Marttinen (@AdamMarttinen) 19 ноября 2019 г.
Many saw this as a u-turn, as barely a decade ago, the Moderates led by then-Prime Minister Fredrik Reinfeldt embraced an open-door immigration policy with slogans portraying Sweden as a “humanitarian superpower”. Furthermore, Kristersson himself used to be a fervent proponent of open borders policies during his tenure as the leader of Moderate Youth between 1988 and 1992.
While columnist and fellow Moderate Alice Theodorescu Måwe saw Kristersson's post as “a way of restoring confidence”, many ordinary Swedes begged to differ, citing recent history.
“For credibility, the Moderates should stop Fredrik R[einfeldt] and his condemnation of Denmark's border control against Sweden. The Moderates must disavow Fredrik R[einfeldt] and his responsibility for the situation in Sweden before earning back the respect and confidence of the voters”, a user suggested.
För trovärdighet bör moderaterna stoppa Frederick R o hans fördömande av Danmark o deras införande av gränskontroll mot Sverige. Moderaterna måste göra upp med Frederick R o hans skuld till situationen i Sverige innan man får respekt o förtroende från väljarna.— Anna-Lena Weber (@MamakaliWeber) 20 ноября 2019 г.
"A man of honour would have apologised and resigned. Kristersson is not an honorary man. Kristersson is a globalist lackey, who served in Reinfeldt's ministry. Now he wants to promote himself", Jeff Ahl of the party Alternative for Sweden tweeted.
En hedersman hade bett om ursäkt och avgått. Kristersson är ingen hedersman. Kristersson är en globalistlakej, han satt med i Reinfeldts ministär. Nu vill han främja sig själv. Hur många tänker vägra låta sig luras? Höj er röst. Allt annat är ett svek mot era egna barn. #svpol https://t.co/J0FjBWkIVm— Jeff Ahl (AfS) (@Jeff_Ahl) 19 ноября 2019 г.
The centre-right Moderate Party is seen as one of the traditional heavyweights in Swedish politics and the only one to have challenged the Social Democrats' dominance until recently. Formerly known as the Right, it peaked at 30.1 percent of the vote in 2010. In the 2018 election, which resulted in a parliamentary crisis and a minority “red-green” government, it came in second with 19.8 percent of the vote.