Sweden’s right bloc appeared in pole position on Monday to form a government for the first time in nearly a decade, helped by a wave of voter anger over gang violence which could give an anti-immigration populist party a share in power for the first time. Sunday’s national election remained too close to call on Monday with about five percent of electoral districts yet to be counted, but early results gave right-wing parties 175 of the 349 seats in the Riksdag, one more than the left bloc.
Overseas postal ballots were still to be counted and while they have historically tended to favour the right, this means a full preliminary result is not due until Wednesday. All votes are then counted again to provide a final tally.
If the results are confirmed, Sweden, which has long prided itself on being a bastion of tolerance, will become less open to immigrants even as the Russian invasion of Ukraine forces people to flee and climate change is pushing many to leave Africa.
Political observers say Moderate leader Ulf Kristersson is likely to become prime minister in a minority government supported by the anti-immigration Sweden Democrats who are poised to become the largest party on the right and will have a big say on the new administration’s programme.
“The Sweden Democrats have had a fantastic election,” the party’s leader Jimmie Akesson said on Twitter.
“So you have to ask what is going on in Swedish society, whether it is knife crime, gun crime, gang crime, whether it’s a different approach now to immigration – Arabic is now the second most spoken language there.
“But something is happening that is making young people go towards this party with neo-nazi links.”
Echoing her comments, Lewis Goodall added: “The reason this is important is this is not just limited to Sweden.
“We’ve seen it in other countries as well, look what happened in France with Marine Le Pen.
“The thing is the big take with this is that it used to be the case that European politics and European countries put in place that cordon sanitaire around far-right parties.
“No one would work with them, they would isolate them.
“Increasingly, whether it’s France or Italy or Norway, Denmark, or Spain in regional parties like Vox and so on, increasingly they are the part of the mainstream.”
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What’s unlikely to change is Sweden’s path towards NATO membership, which has broad support in the wake of Russia’s actions in Ukraine, as well as the country’s plans to boost defence spending.
Social Democrat Prime Minister Magdalena Andersson, who has yet to concede the election, pledged in March to increase the military budget to 2 percent of gross domestic product following what Moscow calls its “special operation” in Ukraine.
Preliminary results have shown the Sweden Democrats with 20.6 percent of the vote, up from 17.5 percent at the last election.
The party, which has white supremacists among their founders, is expected to stay formally in opposition, with many voters and politicians across the political spectrum uncomfortable with seeing it in government.
However, their impact will still be felt.
“It is the Sweden Democrats who have driven the right-wing bloc along, both in terms of shaping the political content and in attracting voters to the constellation,” the independent liberal newspaper Goteborgsposten wrote.
“For Sweden, a new political era awaits.”