Just like many other of the smaller political parties, the politics of Centerpartiet, or the Centre party, has been marked be a successively decreasing voter support. This can be exemplified by the fact that during the 1970's, they had an average of 22,4% votes in the general elections. In the most recent general election, they only got 6,1% votes. They are now experiencing the lowest voter support ever, with 1998 being the only exception. The party has its background in traditional agriculture politics with focus on local issues. A strong country side was the primary focus. During the 70's and 80's they turned to environmental issues and began focusing on both the society at large and the environment.
What does Centerpartiet want? During the general election of 2014 the party chose to play on its agricultural roots and titled their current course locally produced politics. But if we take a closer look we will notice that their plans for reforms are quite traditionally modern. Jobs, sustainable economics, welfare for all, more industries and increased local influence are keywords in their latest election manifesto. Lately, they have also decided to actively engage in refugee politics where they advocate a, comparatively, drastically freer system. They have also chosen to prioritize what has become known as vulnerable social regions. It is possible that this is where the will find its new electoral base. On the modern political map, the middle class is no longer where parties necessarily seek support.
From shrinkage to expansion
The party has gone from focusing on few issues to swinging broadly. Looking at the lower voter support, an explanation might be the party's fragmented self image. It is hard to tell if they are an agricultural party, welfare party, environmental party or a one-size fits all party. But, if you take this as your explaining for their historical downfall, you have to ignore the latest polls. As of recent, Centerpartiet has increased their voter support by 2,3 percentage points. If these numbers hold up in the general election, voters will have reacted positively to the broader party line.
Part of the explanation for their new found popularity might be found in party leader Annie Lööf. She is experiencing a statistically disproportional support in polls. As a representative of one of the smaller parties she is supported by 27% of the respondents no matter their party preference. Her popularity stretches beyond party lines. This might also create issues for the party since a change in leader might affect the opinion negatively.
The future of Centerpartiet is unsure. Their new found support is hard to explain if one looks at their political ambitions. Its hard to say exactly why we are seeing this support. No matter if they are experience support from new voter groups or if older voter groups have returned, we can't say for sure if it is a lasting trend. If it is lasting, the party will outgrow other smaller parties. If it doesn't last, Centerpartiet's whole future will be shrouded in uncertainty.
Can Centerpartiet increase support if it decides to again focus on its core issues? Possibly. But we can't say for sure if the core issues still are relevant for Sweden. Looking at recent polls, it is in the interest of the party to keep focusing in the broader issues.