Sweden is recognised the world over for its exceptional governance structure. Its solid reputation for being a technological and entrepreneurial hub has led Sweden to leap from seventh to third place in the Enterprise index. This jump definitely played a significant role in Sweden’s rise to eighth in The Soft Power 30 rankings, while allowing it to maintain its position as leader of Nordic soft power. Placing third in the Enterprise index, Sweden outperforms major economies such as the US, Germany, and the UK, as well as Asian innovation hubs South Korea and Japan. It may seem counter-intuitive for a state more associated with cushy social safety net than the rough-and-tumble of capitalism to breed entrepreneurship, but Stockholm produces the second-highest number of billion-dollar tech companies per capita after Silicon Valley, evidenced in unicorn companies such as Spotify. Sweden continues to be praised for its welfare system and commitment to social equality. Its top position on the Government index comes as no surprise with Sweden ranking first on the Freedom House Index for being the freest in terms of political rights and civil liberties. Despite being the freest liberal democracy in the world, Sweden is not immune to the nationalistic and xenophobic sentiments that have spread across most of Europe. A surge in gang violence has incited anti-immigration sentiments, paving the way for a far-right party to make gains in the upcoming Swedish elections.
Sweden has continually been building on and strengthening its soft power portfolio, resulting in its move up the rankings by one position. Other nations should be looking to Sweden as an example of why it’s important to avoid complacency. By topping the Government index, Sweden sets a high bar for promoting democracy and accountability worldwide. This is an impressive achievement and one that should give other political leaders the conviction to make bolder decisions in the future.
The rising popularity of the far-right Sweden Democrats party could pose as a great destabilising force to Sweden’s stronghold on the Government sub-index, and its overall soft power assets. As one of the leading liberal democracies in the world, an upheaval on Sweden’s progressive social policies, or an isolationist stance would affect global perceptions on Sweden as it potentially loses its reputation as a beacon of freedom and tolerance.
Despite being located on the outskirts of Europe with a small population, Sweden has earned its spot in the top 10, proving year after year that it is a stable soft power force. To maintain its position in the top 10, Sweden will need to hold on to its strong performance on the Government index. Sweden must allay the concerns of the public on crime and immigration, to impede the rise of a far-right party with neo-Nazi roots that plan to freeze immigration and hold a referendum on Sweden’s membership of the European Union.