Sweden’s right looked set to oust Prime Minister Magdalena Andersson’s left-wing bloc in Sunday’s general election thanks to strong far-right gains, clinging to a slim lead with 94% of the electoral constituencies counted.
The right-wing bloc was credited with a majority of 176 out of 349 seats in parliament, with the left-wing bloc trailing with 173.
With the vote deemed too close to be announced, election officials said they did not expect a final result until Wednesday, when the last ballots from overseas and from the advance poll were counted.
“We’re not going to have a final result tonight,” Andersson, 55, told his cheering supporters as the result hung in the air, calling on the Swedes to “be patient” and “let go.” democracy to take its course”.
Anderson’s challenger, Ulf Kristersson of the Moderate Conservatives and leader of the right-wing bloc, said that if the election results could still change, “I am ready to build a strong new government”.
The moderates and two other smaller right-wing parties linked up for the first time with Sweden’s anti-immigration and nationalist Democrats, who looked set to post their best electoral tally yet.
The far-right party, which entered parliament in 2010 with 5.7% of the vote and has long been called a “pariah” by other political parties, won around 20.7% of the vote.
This makes it the second largest party in the country for the first time, overtaking the moderate, traditional right-wing leaders.
The election campaign was dominated by issues close to right-wing voters and particularly the far-right, including the rise in gang shootings, immigration and integration issues.
While Andersson’s Social Democrats looked set to remain the country’s largest party at 30.5%, the Moderates slipped to third at 19%.
It’s a setback for Kristersson, who orchestrated a major shift in Swedish politics by launching exploratory talks in 2019 with Sweden’s Democrats.
The other two small right-wing parties, the Christian Democrats and to a lesser extent the Liberals, then followed suit.
“It looks good now”
“Our goal is to sit in government. Our goal is majority government,” Sweden’s Democratic Party leader Jimmie Akesson told a cheering crowd of supporters on Sunday night.
“It looks really good now,” he said.
Party Secretary Richard Jomshof told state broadcaster SVT he ‘didn’t believe’ other parties would be able to freeze Sweden’s Democrats again and expected to have a strong influence on the politics of the country.
“We are so big now…it is clear that we should have a place in parliamentary committees,” he said.
He said the party had “a chance to play an active role in a government that would move politics in a completely different direction.”
Prime Minister Andersson, a former finance minister, campaigned to form a government with the support of smaller left, center and green parties.
The Social Democrats have ruled Sweden since 2014 and have dominated the political landscape since the 1930s.
“We social democrats had a good election,” she told party members on Sunday evening, adding: “Swedish social democracy is strong.”
The two blocs are plagued by internal divisions that could lead to lengthy negotiations to form a coalition government.
On the right, the Liberals have said they oppose Swedish Democrats being given cabinet posts, political scientist Katarina Barrling noted.
They would prefer the far right to stay in the background providing informal support to parliament.
But for a number of reasons, there is “pressure to quickly establish a united and effective government”, she said.
Sweden faces a looming economic crisis, is in the midst of a historic NATO bid process and is set to take over the EU presidency in 2023.
The end of the political isolation of the Swedish Democrats, and the prospect of it becoming the largest right-wing party, is “a huge change in Swedish society“, said Anders Lindberg, columnist at the left-wing tabloid Aftonbladet.
Born out of a neo-Nazi movement in the late 1980s, the party’s rise was accompanied by a massive influx of immigrants. The country of around 10 million people has taken in almost half a million asylum seekers in a decade.
It also comes as Sweden struggles to tackle escalating gang shootings attributed to battles over the sale of drugs and arms.
Crime was a top concern for far-right voters.
Independent journalism costs money. Support Times of Malta for the price of a coffee.