Malmö: Muslims voting for anti-immigrant parties by mistake

Malmö: Muslims voting for anti-immigrant parties by mistake

(Skåne Party brochure)

Michael Aastrup Jensen of the Danish Liberal Party says that the Swedish elections are unfair (DA), since people at the polling stations can see which ballot people pick (DA).


The Skåne Party attracted Muslim voters in the Swedish city of Malmö, even though the party wants to ban Islam.

Some voters who like Mona Sahlin (Social Democrats) misunderstood the Skåne Party's mail-outs, which showed Mona Sahlin wearing a Muslim headscarf.

Election officials in Malmö say that an even more common mistake was people who confused the Sweden Democrats and Social Democrats ballots.  One election official says that for many people, the party names look the same.

Sabit Pacolli, from Rosengård, voted for the center-right coalition last time, but this time he voted for the SOcial Democrats.  As an election worker for the Social Democrats, he says he met several Muslims who thought of voting for the Skåne Party.  "There are people who speak very poor Swedish.  I sorted out the misunderstanding of such a family and got them to vote for the Social Democrats instead."

The misunderstanding caused uncertainly among the municipal election workers who dealt with the early ballots.  How active should a politically neutral official be in correcting obvious misunderstandings?

Three weeks ago the Skåne Party sent out their brochures to everybody in Skåne. Harsh attacks on Islam, complemented by a drawing of Mona Sahlin wearing a headscarf.  The drawing was meant to mock the Social Democratic leader - a Muslim is rarely good in the party's world.

But certain Malmö residents who don't understand Swedish so well, saw the picture of the smiling Sahlin and thought it meant that she belonged to the Skåne Party.  Election officials who received early ballots in areas with poor literacy and Swedish skills, saw such misunderstandings on a daily basis.

One election official who wished to remain anonymous says that every day people came in who thought the Skåne Party was a Muslim party.

The situation was problematic and delicate for the municipal election workers.  They are not allowed to lead the voters politically.  On the other hand, their task is to facilitate voting and to clear up misunderstandings regarding party names if the voters ask for help.

If voters waving the Skåne Party's brochure come in and say they want to vote for Mona Sahlin – which happens - the officials can tell them that Mona Sahlin doesn't belong to the Skåne Party, says  Louise Lagerlund, election committee deputy secretary.  But it's very difficult to make that distinction, says Lagerlund, and adds that the election officials are not allowed to engage in political discussions.

Sydsvenskan spoke with several election officials and saw that they respond differently to potential misunderstandings.  One election official actively goes about and asks if he thinks a voter made an error.  "I saw two Ethiopian women who took the Sweden Democrats ballot.  I went to them.  It turned out that they wanted to vote for the Social Democrats".

Another election official is more passive and says that when he suspected that people were not voting for the party they meant to, he intervened.  It's a tough question but they need to provide information about how the elections are run, not to affect voting.

The election officials speak of other misunderstandings.  The Social Democrat ballot says "Labour Party Social Democrats", which caused confusion for some first-time voters and immigrants, since the Moderates had ads calling themselves the "Labour Party".

In the early voting booth outside City  Gross in Rosengård the election officials were extremely pressured, with a lot of people having language difficulties and misunderstandings.

Election official Andreas says that an interpreter would have been nice.  He's sure that some people voted a party by mistake.

Source: Sydsvenskan (Swedish)