Tags: Sweden | vote | Ulf Kristersson | Jimmie Åkesson | Stefan Löfven

Sweden's Ruling Social Democrats Ahead, Far Right Make Gains in Election

Sweden's Ruling Social Democrats Ahead, Far Right Make Gains in Election
Swedish Prime Minister Stefan Lofven (Getty Images)

Sunday, 09 September 2018 04:57 PM

Swedish Prime Minister Stefan Lofven's Social Democrats looked poised to take the lead in Sunday's general election, preliminary results showed, with the anti-immigrant far right making gains.

Ballots in more than half of the 6,004 districts have been counted, and the Social Democrats were seen winning 28 percent of the votes, down from 31 percent in the 2014 elections.

It was still uncertain however if Lofven, who heads one of the few left-wing governments in Europe, would be able to rustle up enough support in parliament to form a government.

Both the premier's left-wing bloc and the opposition centre-right Alliance were neck-and-neck with votes counted so far, but both were seen falling short of a majority.

The far-right Sweden Democrats, who have capitalised on voters' frustration over immigration after the country welcomed almost 400,000 asylum seekers since 2012, were seen making steady gains, rising from 12.9 percent in 2014 to 17.9 percent.

If confirmed, that would mean the Sweden Democrats would remain the third-biggest party -- failing to overtake Ulf Kristersson's conservative Moderates who were credited with 19.4 percent.

Sweden Democrats leader Jimmie Akesson had said earlier Sunday he expected to clinch between 20 and 30 percent of votes.

Marine Le Pen of France's far-right Front National nonetheless hailed Sweden Democrats' projected rise, tweeting: "Yet another bad night ahead for the European Union. The democratic revolution in Europe is moving forward!"

Lofven had called the election a "referendum on the future of the welfare state", but the far right presented it as a vote on immigrants and their integration.

The Sweden Democrats, with roots in the neo-Nazi movement, has said the large number of asylum-seekers presents a threat to Swedish culture and claims they put a strain on the country's generous welfare state.

Around 18.5 percent of Sweden's population of 10 million was born abroad, according to Statistics Sweden.

Lofven had urged Swedes not to vote for what he called a "racist party" as he cast his ballot Sunday.

"It's... about decency, about a decent democracy. And the Social Democrats and a Social Democratic-led government is a guarantee for not letting the Sweden Democrats extremist party, racist party, get any influence in the government."

The Social Democrats have led a minority government with the Greens since 2014, with the informal support of the ex-communist Left Party to pass legislation.

If the preliminary results are confirmed, the Social Democrats' result would be its worst showing in a century.

Mattias, a Stockholm resident at an election night party in the city, said he was "extremely concerned" about the far right's steady climb.

"The election is between potential democracy and potential facism," he told AFP.

Anna Berglund, a 28-year-old lawyer who voted for the small Centre Party at a polling station in Stockholm's upmarket Ostermalm neighbourhood, agreed.

"I'm afraid we're becoming a society that is more hostile to foreigners."

The head of the four-party Alliance (the conservative Moderates, Centre, Liberals and Christian Democrats), Ulf Kristersson, told AFP on voting day his Alliance was the only option for change.

"We are the guarantee to oust the current government from power," he said.

With neither Lofven's "red-green" bloc nor his own Alliance standing a chance of winning a majority, Kristersson has said Sweden needs "a strong cross-bloc cooperation to isolate the forces... pushing for Sweden to withdraw from international cooperation".

The final election results were due late Sunday, but the composition of the next government may not be known for weeks.

Lengthy negotiations will be needed to build a majority, or at least a minority that won't be toppled by the opposite side.

The opposition is intent on ousting Lofven, with some Moderates willing to go so far as to put an end to Sweden Demorats' pariah status and open negotiations with them.

That could prove fatal for the Alliance, with the Liberal and Centre parties repeatedly ruling out a deal with the far right.

None of the seven parties has been willing to negotiate with the Sweden Democrats, which first entered parliament in 2006 with 5.7 percent of votes.

"The problems in society that we warned of have grown bigger and worse and people agree with our view of reality," Sweden Democrats parliamentary group leader Mattias Karlsson told SVT.

"When the same party time and again increases, and the other parties stand still, then you have to listen to that part of the population that is voting for this party. It's time to take responsibility and talk to the Sweden Democrats," he said.

In an interview with AFP during the campaign, Akesson stressed he would "lay down his terms" after the election, citing immigration policy, crime-fighting and health care as priorities.

© AFP 2021


Newsfront
Swedish Prime Minister Stefan Lofven's Social Democrats looked poised to take the lead in Sunday's general election, preliminary results showed, with the anti-immigrant far right making gains.Ballots in more than half of the 6,004 districts have been counted, and the Social...
Sweden, vote, Ulf Kristersson, Jimmie Åkesson, Stefan Löfven
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2018-57-09
Sunday, 09 September 2018 04:57 PM
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