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Sweden election: Result could take days as vote too close to call

todaySeptember 11, 2022 3

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By Elsa Maishman & Alex Binley

BBC News

Swedish Prime Minister Magdalena AnderssonImage source, Reuters

Image caption,

Swedish Prime Minister Magdalena Andersson said there would be no result yet

Sweden’s election was too close to call on Sunday night, Prime Minister Magdalena Andersson said.

Exit polls at first predicted victory for the incumbent left-wing coalition, but results later suggested the right-wing bloc could narrowly win.

Immigration and crime were major issues in the campaign, and the far-right Sweden Democrats look set to become the second-largest party.

It could take until Wednesday for all votes to be counted.

Soon after polls closed, an early exit poll by Sweden’s public broadcaster suggested Ms Andersson’s coalition of four left-wing parties would narrowly win, with 49.8% of the vote compared to 49.2%.

But the left’s celebrations were perhaps premature, as later partial results put the right-wing group ahead, with a projected 175 of 349 seats in parliament.

As the race is so close, the final result may have to wait until all votes, including postal and advance votes, are counted over the next few days.

Whatever the result, the far-right Sweden Democrats have made significant gains, appearing to become the country’s second-largest party behind the Social Democrats.

However, it’s leader, Jimmie Akesson, is unlikely to become prime minister even if the right-wing bloc wins the largest number of seats. Instead, Moderate Party leader Ulf Kristersson is likely to take that role.

Neck-and-neck, down-to-the wire, on a knife-edge. These are the descriptions the Swedish media has been using for weeks to describe the tight race between the country’s left and right political blocs during a heated and often ugly election campaign.

The first exit poll suggested there could be a different story, with a small majority for the left. But the right gained ground as results trickled in and soon the too-close-to-call narrative was back.

The press room above the Social Democrats’ election party emptied out – despite aromatic baskets of Nordic pastries being laid out as late-night snacks – with many journalists calling it a night.

Whether there ends up being a new right-wing government or not, what is clear is the nationalist Sweden Democrats have made a big impact.

Not just in wooing voters from all sides of the spectrum, but influencing politics more generally, with integration and crime overtaking huge global issues including the cost of living, energy and the climate crisis.

Born out of a neo-Nazi movement at the end of the 1980s, the anti-immigration Sweden Democrats entered parliament with 5.7% of the vote in 2010, increasing this to 17.5% in 2018. It looks set to win more than 20% this time.

Moderate Party leader Ulf Kristersson orchestrated a major shift in Swedish politics in 2019 by starting talks with the Sweden Democrats, who had long been treated as pariahs by other political parties.

Image source, Reuters

Image caption,

Sweden Democrats leader Jimmie Akesson celebrated as the vote was counted

Magdalena Andersson’s Social Democrats have governed Sweden since 2014 and dominated the country’s political landscape since the 1930s.

Voter turnout in this election was expected to be high, with more than 80% of the country’s 7.8 million eligible voters expected to cast ballots.

The election campaign has been dominated by rising gang shootings, immigration and integration issues, and soaring electricity prices.

While the violence was once contained to certain locations, it has spread to public spaces such as parks and shopping centres, sparking concern among ordinary Swedes in a country long known as safe and peaceful.

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todaySeptember 11, 2022