Sweden braces for political uncertainty as far right makes gains

STOCKHOLM — Sweden faces political uncertainty after Sunday’s election resulted in no clear majority and the far right made historic gains, according to preliminary results.

With most of the votes counted, Prime Minister Stefan Löfven’s center-left bloc won 40.6 percent of the vote, barely surpassing the center-right Alliance at 40.3 percent, according to preliminary results broadcast by SVT. The far-right Sweden Democrats looked set to score their best-ever election results at 17.6 percent.

With no party with a majority, it’ll take time for a clear picture to emerge of who might run the country. The leader of the largest vote-winning party is often given the first shot at forming a government, especially if they can show they have a good chance of bringing together a strong coalition.

Neither the Social Democrats nor the Moderates have shown any interest in forming a grand coalition together, which would be unusual for Sweden. A minority governments remains a possibility. Both the center-left and center-right blocs have said they will not work with the Sweden Democrats.

The results follow a pan-European trend that has seen traditional parties shaken by the rise of the far right. The surge of the Sweden Democrats echoes recent developments in Italy and Germany, where parties championing tighter border controls have rapidly gained ground since the height of the refugee crisis in 2015.

Still, the Sweden Democrats fell well below the 25 percent that some polls had predicted. And while opinion polls leading up to the election showed the far-right party could become the second biggest single party, the Sweden Democrats came in at third place, behind Löfven’s Social Democrats at 28.4 percent and the Moderate Party at 19.8 percent.

“I know there were some who dreamed of more, but let’s not forget that we have progressed the most,” party strategist Mattias Karlsson told supporters after the results emerged.

“We have done everything we can,” said Sweden Democrat leader Jimmie Åkesson. “Now we have to get influence over Swedish politics for real.”

The election is a blow to Löfven’s Social Democrats, which scored its worst election results in a century.

“We would have liked to have achieved a better result, but despite that, the voters have made the Social Democrats the biggest party, clearly the biggest party,” Löfven said in a speech to supporters.

The Social Democrats’ junior coalition partners, the Greens, just made it above the 4 percent threshold to enter parliament at 4.3 percent. “This has been unnecessarily exciting,” Green party politician Isabella Lövin told supporters.

Moderate Party leader Ulf Kristersson and Löfven said they would begin talks with allies with the intention of forming the next government.

Löfven said he planned to continue as prime minister and run the government as talks on a future coalition got underway. The result is so tight that the final vote count could swing the outcome in the direction of one of the two blocs.

Under the Swedish system, it is the speaker of the parliament who decides in what order the party leaders get the chance to form a government.

“The work is not done, it is just starting,” Löfven said. “The campaign is over, now we put Sweden’s best first.”

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