Sweden faces weeks in political limbo after far right makes gains

Sweden's center-left and center-right blocs emerged neck-and-neck after Sunday's election. The far-right Sweden Democrats made significant gains to hold third place.

The parliamentary election was one of Sweden's most important because the the far-right, anti-immigration Sweden Democrats — who rose from the white supremacist and neo-Nazi fringe — were expected to gain significant strength and change the landscape of Swedish politics.
Read more: Sweden's general election results in stalemate as far-right support surges

Neck-and-neck

  • An initial allocation of parliamentary seats gave the center-left 144 seats compared with 143 for the center-right Alliance bloc.
  • The far-right Sweden Democrats gained 13 seats to hold third place with 62 seats.
  • 175 seats are required to form a majority in the 349-seat Riksdag.

Read more: Opinion: The far-right twist in the Swedish fairytale

Cold shoulder for the far right

"Voters made the Social Democrats Sweden's biggest party," Prime Minister Stefan Lofven said. "We need a cross-bloc cooperation." He said he would stay in his post for the next fortnight until the new parliament opens.

Parliamentary group leader Anders Ygeman said "it could take weeks, maybe even months," before Sweden has a government in place.

"The Alliance will not govern or discuss how to form a government with the Sweden Democrats," said Ulf Kristersson, head of the Moderates. "In some sense we're happy the Sweden Democrats didn't grow more than they did," said the Liberal Party lawmaker Allan Widman.

Meanwhile far-right leaders in Austria, Italy and France hailed the Sweden Democrats' results. "Sweden, birthplace of multiculturalism and model for the left, has finally decided to change after years of wild, uncontrolled immigration," Italy's far-right interior minister, Matteo Salvini, said on Twitter.

Breaking with traditions

The opposition Alliance bloc — comprised of the Moderates, Centre, Liberals and Christian Democrats — scored 40.3 percent of the Sunday's vote. It would achieve a majority if it were to team up with the Sweden Democrats, however the Centre and Liberals would likely not agree to join with the far-right. Sweden Democrats leader Jimmie Akesson invited the other two parties to formal negotiations, but was rejected.

The left-wing governing bloc — made up of the Social Democrats, the Green Party and the Left Party — emerged with 40.6 percent of the vote. The bloc's leader, Prime Minister Stefan Lofven, also refused to cooperate with the far right.

What happens next?

Analysts said that it will be difficult to form a stable government without some kind of support from the Sweden Democrats unless the blocs break away from their traditional alliances. Parliament opens on September 25. If the prime minister is ousted after a mandatory vote on whether to replace him, the speaker is permitted to give a maximum of four PM candidates the opportunity to form a government. If they all fail, fresh elections will be called.

kw/rc (AP, AFP, dpa, Reuters)

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