Swedish election: Main blocs neck and neck as nationalists gain

Jimmie Akesson

The prime minister said the mainstream parties now have a "moral responsibility" to form a government, and keep away from power a party he has previously claimed had "roots in Nazism".

It would also make them the biggest populist party in the Nordic region, topping the Danish People's Party, which gained 21 per cent in 2015, and would trump the 12.6 per cent for the far-right Alternative for Germany, which swept into the Bundestag past year. Victory for the Sweden Democrats means that neither of these blocks got anything close to a parliamentary majority. And rather than countering the Sweden Democrats' anti-Muslim, anti-immigrant rhetoric with a vision of their own, the liberals shifted to the right with proposals that included sending the army into neighborhoods with high crime rates.

That same scenario has played out similarly in countries across Europe, where traditional left and right parties have employed similar strategies to regain voters from populist parties, largely without success.

The growing strength of the Sweden Democrats also reflects how old taboos are collapsing.

Today, the Sweden Democrats tries to disrupt the status quo and destroy the party duopoly between the Moderates and the Social Democrats.

Reuters reports that following the result, Sweden Democrats leader Jimmie Akesson told party colleagues: "We will gain huge influence over what happens in Sweden during the coming weeks, months and years".

Today's governing Social Democratic Party, in power throughout World War Two, openly cooperated with Nazi Germany, supplying Hitler with the iron ore he needed to build Germany's tanks and guns.

Overseas votes will be counted on Wednesday. Although both major parties have ruled out formally ruling with the Sweden Democrats in a coalition, the center-right Moderates have said they would not reject support in areas where the parties' positions coincide.

Currently, Social Democrats leader and Prime Minister Stefan Lofven have a minuscule two-mandate lead over the centre-right opposition, with 144 seats against 142.

The party, which has worked to moderate its image in past years and wants the country to leave the European Union, gained votes amid a backlash against the challenges of integrating hundreds of thousands of immigrants who arrived in the Scandinavian nation over the past years. For me, when he is saying that immigrants are not welcome to Sweden ... he is trying to spread hate between the people.

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Politicians in Sweden will now "need a lot of imagination" to form a government, daily Svenska Dagbladet wrote.

The Sweden Democrats took 17.6 percent of the vote, only slightly behind the establishment "centre-right" Moderate Party, who slipped to 19.8 percent.

The rise of the SD has been the main focus of coverage of the 2018 Sweden Election, with the worldwide press writing the party's popularity into the narrative of the rise of anti-immigration populist parties in Europe.

"If the red-green bloc is bigger, the Centre and the Liberals hold the key and not Jimmie Akesson", the Sweden Democrat leader, said University of Gothenburg political science professor Mikael Gilliam on Swedish public radio.

Turnout in the election was reported at 84.4 percent, up from 83 percent in 2014.

She said the result was better than she had feared for her party and its coalition partner the Green party. Many allege that immigrants were behind the massive vehicle bombing spree in August, which saw 160 cars torched.

A new election will be called if parliament doesn't agree on a prime minister after four attempts.

The party presented the vote on Sunday as a ballot on immigration and integration.

But, ultimately, the far right's gains have not been sufficient to put it in a position to push as hard as it might on its agenda.

"If nobody is talking about stuff that people see as problems, the only answers and understanding that they're going to have are the ones offered by the populist parties".

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