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Why is ‘the immigration issue’ rarely polemical for the Swedish mainstream when it divides parties across Europe? Several factors suggest fertile ground for conflict, yet parties hesitate to capitalise on anti-immigration cues. Based on interviews with Swedish MPs, the article discusses two interlinked issues. First, immigration crystallises conflicting ideological streams: market liberalism vs. value conservatism (for the centre-right) and international solidarity vs. welfare state/labour market protectionism (for the centre-left), and stressing the ‘wrong’ stream detracts attention from parties' core competencies. Second, since competition, when present, revolves around issue ownership, parties that are less trusted on immigration will divert attention to areas of higher competence. Whether immigration becomes politicised is not necessarily dependent on electoral grievances or a radical right presence but on parties' ability to handle and negotiate these conflicting streams and issue priorities. An appreciation of the party politics of immigration is thus central to understanding when, and why, immigration becomes an ‘issue’.
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OLD POLITICS, NEW ISSUES AND INSTITUTIONAL CONSTRAINTS: HOW TO EXPLAIN PARTIES POSITIONS ON EU MEMBERSHIP AND IMMIGRATION
1/01/09 → 30/06/11