Sweden faces weeks of uncertainty after close election

Sweden faces weeks of uncertainty after close election

They kept Sweden out of World War One, out of World War Two, and out of the Cold War.

For those predicting a decisive right-wing triumph, the ultimate result didn't quite live up to the hype.

A radical right wing group with a neo-Nazi past was set to become Sweden's second largest party on Sunday night, after exit polls suggested it had won almost 20 per cent of the vote.

A final result is expected to be presented to Parliament on Friday at the earliest.

Swedish Prime Minister Stefan Lofven, a Social Democrat, has called the election a "referendum on the future of the welfare state" but the far-right Sweden Democrats (SD) have presented it as vote on immigrants and their integration, after Sweden took in nearly 400,000 asylum seekers since 2012. The center-right Moderates also lost support, but they stayed in second place overall.

Dragan Pau, 64, a builder taking a break from renovating a nearby apartment, said he doubted his party, the far-right, anti-immigration Sweden Democrats, had won the influence it had hoped for.

"But if they go out from the people's vote, you should have Social Democrats, Centre, Liberals and Green party all working together".

Ulf Kristersson, leader of the Sweden's Moderate Party, addresses supporters at an election night party in Stockholm on September 9, 2018. In 2010, the year it first entered parliament, it won only 5.7 percent of the vote.

Leaders in Brussels will be disappointed with the party's surge ahead of the European Parliament's elections in May next year, as they bid to discourage euroskepticism following the UK's decision to leave the EU, and as populist parties form alliances to shake up the EU establishment ahead of the vote. It is obvious, he continued, "that the people in Sweden have realized the real difficulties we are facing".

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In one of Europe's most liberal nations, it was the latest in a series of spectacular gains for far-right parties across the continent.

Akesson was adamant his party holds the balance of power. Among other things, the party no longer advocates for reintroducing the death penalty or for limiting the adoption of non-Nordic children.

The record levels of asylum seekers in 2015 magnified worries about a welfare system that many voters already believe is in crisis, even though refugee numbers have fallen sharply since then.

The Sweden Democrats, meanwhile, are celebrating their ascent after rising from obscurity a little over a decade ago to a position of incontestable political influence today. "I mean of course we have a lot of refugees here, but we need to take care of them", she said. And this wasn't just campaign speak. But thanks to the Sweden Democrats, it became a question that couldn't go unanswered, Johan Hassel, the Social Democrats' worldwide secretary, said after the vote.

The biggest factor for that is, according to professor of political science at Södertörn University Nicholas Aylott because the Sweden Democrats "are not a very old party, they were only formed at the end of the eighties, and they have roots in overtly racist, Neo-Nazi organisations". With coalition governments requiring more parties to form a majority, they can become both more unstable and more hard to form in the first place: It took Rutte more than 200 days to form a Dutch government past year. If Lofven is ousted, the speaker is allowed to give a maximum of four prime ministerial candidates the opportunity to form a government.

Prime Minister Stefan Lofven invited the center-right opposition Alliance to talks aimed at a "cross-bloc cooperation", after his Social Democrats remained the biggest party with 28.4 percent of votes, its weakest election score in a century.

With the Sweden Democrats gaining ground in Swedish politics, the Scandinavian country faces a new challenge; a third "bloc" that so far - no one wants to collaborate with.

"In Sweden we live in a false dictatorship because none of the other parties will ever let the Sweden Democrats have any power", he complained, as his colleague Adin shook his head in amused disagreement.