Scandinavia Offers Hints for Achieving Successful Democracies

Efforts to integrate these new arrivals — many from the Middle East and Africa — have not always been successful, and immigration has helped fuel the rise of Sweden’s far-right party, the Sweden Democrats, which scored 20.6 percent in last month’s elections, giving it a crucial role in the new minority right-wing government.

The issue is less acute in Denmark, where foreign-born citizens are about 8 to 10 percent of the population but, according to Mr. Elklit, political parties across the spectrum there too are promising to limit immigration.

This has taken a toll on the region’s consensus-driven politics. “The relative steep increase in foreign born in Sweden and Denmark — to a much lesser extent in Norway and Finland — has led to a lower level of trust,” Mr. Lindberg said.

Still, Mr. Holmberg argues that Sweden’s increasingly diverse population has not had a significant impact on social trust, although he noted that supporters of the far-right Sweden Democrats tend to be less trusting of others and of institutions. “So there is some reason for worrying,” he said.

Like the rest of the world, Scandinavia has also seen a rise in the spread of disinformation, both home grown and imported, which represents a “huge challenge,” Mr. Lindberg said. “But the resilience is good up to this point, and we are happy about that.”

Mr. Elklit has had firsthand experience trying to export Scandinavia’s democratic models. As a consultant to the Danish government, he traveled to Africa and Asia to offer advice on election procedures. Not many efforts were successful, he said.

“The Danish electoral system might be useful, but it was developed over many years, roughly from 1850 to 1920,” he said. “But in developing countries, they don’t want to wait 70 years, they want it overnight, but that’s not possible. You need to develop a political culture.”

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