Sweden's far right makes strong gains in cliffhanger election

AFP , Wednesday 14 Sep 2022

Sweden on Monday began a days-long wait for the final results of a too-close-to-call general election, with an unprecedented right-wing and far-right bloc in position to wrest power from Prime Minister Magdalena Andersson's Social Democrats.

Malmo, Sweden
The County Administrative Board of Skane during the final vote count in Malmo, southern Sweden, Monday Sept. 12, 2022. AP

 

The Scandinavian country has seen mounting political instability in recent years as the gradual rise of the far right has upset the traditional balance of power in parliament.

Sweden again found itself in a delicate parliamentary situation after Sunday's legislative election, with the right seen holding a razor-thin lead over Andersson's outgoing left bloc.

"The close result in parliament suggests Sweden is heading for yet another messy mandate", newspaper of reference Dagens Nyheter wrote on Monday.

Election authorities said a final result would be ready at the earliest on Wednesday, once the last ballots from abroad and from advance voting had been counted.

Editorialist Anders Lindberg of daily Aftonbladet told AFP it appeared "impossible for the left to win because the votes from abroad are... usually in favour of the right".

With 95 percent of votes counted on Monday, the right led by conservative Moderates leader Ulf Kristersson was credited with an absolute majority of 175 of 349 seats in parliament.

Andersson's left bloc trailed with 174.

If confirmed, the Social Democrats would be out after eight years in power.

Kristersson, who vowed during the campaign to crack down on law and order amid soaring crime rates, said he was "ready to build a new and strong government".

Far-right gains

The election's big winner was, however, the anti-immigration, nationalist Sweden Democrats party, led by Jimmie Akesson.

It was credited with 20.6 percent of votes, making it the biggest party on the right and the second biggest in the country behind the Social Democrats.

"It's looking pretty damn good now", 43-year-old Akesson told cheering supporters late Sunday.

The right bloc -- made up of the Sweden Democrats, Moderates, Christian Democrats and Liberals -- were seen winning 49.7 percent.

The left, comprised of the Social Democrats, the Left, the Greens and the Centre parties, were meanwhile credited with 48.9 percent.

Prime Minister Andersson, 55, has refused to throw in the towel just yet.

"We're not going to have a final result tonight," she told supporters late Sunday as her party was seen posting a strong result of around 30 percent of votes.

She called on Swedes to "have patience" and "let democracy run its course".

The election marked a major shift in Swedish politics.

For the first time, the Moderates, Christian Democrats and Liberals tied up with the far right, long treated as "pariahs" by other political parties.

Kristersson orchestrated the change, initiating exploratory talks in 2019 with the Sweden Democrats and then deepening their cooperation.

The Christian Democrats, and to a lesser extent the Liberals, later followed suit.

"Our goal is to sit in government. Our goal is a majority government," Akesson said late Sunday.

Tensions on the right

Even before the final results were in, the right began their first meetings on Monday, with both Akesson and Liberal leader Johan Pehrson seen arriving at the Moderates offices for separate talks.

The right-wing bloc is, however, rife with internal divisions, and Kristersson could struggle to form a stable coalition government.

The Liberals have opposed the idea of the Sweden Democrats being given cabinet posts -- a position they reiterated on Monday -- and would prefer for them to remain in the background providing informal support in parliament.

Akesson has insisted his party be in government or he will present a litany of demands in exchange for his support.

That could be too much for the Liberals to stomach.

"It would suffice for one of the Liberal party's far-right-critical MPs to dissent for Ulf Kristersson's government to find itself in serious trouble," Dagens Nyheter wrote on Monday.

Political analyst Ulf Bjereld agreed.

A Kristersson-led government "will have to deal with very strong internal tensions and some Liberals will demand that they start to cooperate with the Social Democrats instead", he told AFP.

The Sweden Democrats "have their roots in neo-Nazism and on the other side the Liberals stand for everything the Sweden Democrats don't", he added.

Analysts stressed Sweden was in need of political stability amid a busy docket in the coming months.

The country faces a looming economic crisis, is in the midst of a historic and delicate NATO application process and is due to take over the EU presidency in 2023.

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