Swe­den vote pro­duces a mud­dle

The Guardian Weekly - - International News | Special Report - Jon Hen­ley

Swe­den faces a pe­riod of po­lit­i­cal un­cer­tainty af­ter an elec­tion that left the two main par­lia­men­tary blocs tied but well short of a ma­jor­ity, and the far­right Swe­den Democrats promis­ing to wield “real influence” in par­lia­ment de­spite mak­ing more mod­est gains than many had pre­dicted.

The pop­ulist, anti-im­mi­grant party won 17.6% of the vote, ac­cord­ing to pre­lim­i­nary of­fi­cial re­sults – well up on the 12.9% it scored in 2014, but far be­low the 25%-plus some polls had pre­dicted ear­lier in the sum­mer. It looked highly likely, how­ever, to have a sig­nif­i­cant role in pol­i­cy­mak­ing.

The gov­ern­ing So­cial Democrats, led by prime min­is­ter Ste­fan Löfven, main­tained their record of fin­ish­ing first in ev­ery elec­tion since 1917, but saw their share fall to 28.4%, the low­est for a cen­tury, while the main cen­tre-right opposition Mod­er­ate party also slipped to 19.8%.

On a favourable night for the smaller par­ties, the ex-com­mu­nist Left and the cen­tre-right Cen­tre and Chris­tian Demo­crat par­ties all ad­vanced. Cru­cially for the cen­tre-left’s chances of form­ing a gov­ern­ment, the Green party scraped over the thresh­old for rep­re­sen­ta­tion with 4.4%.

But the new gov­ern­ment, which could now take weeks to form, will need ei­ther cross-bloc al­liances be­tween cen­tre-right and cen­tre-left par­ties, or an ac­com­mo­da­tion with the Swe­den Democrats – long shunned by all other par­ties be­cause of their ex­trem­ist roots – to pass leg­is­la­tion.

With the cen­tre-left bloc on 40.6% of the vote and the cen­tre-right on 40.2%, an­a­lysts pre­dict com­pli­cated ne­go­ti­a­tions will now be needed to build a ma­jor­ity, or – more likely – a mi­nor­ity that will not eas­ily be sunk.

Many ob­servers there­fore see the Mod­er­ate party leader, Ulf Kris­ters­son – who last Sun­day night called for Löfven to re­sign – seek­ing to form a mi­nor­ity cen­tre-right ad­min­is­tra­tion, pos­si­bly in coali­tion with the Chris­tian Democrats and with im­plicit, ad hoc par­lia­men­tary sup­port from the Swe­den Democrats.

This would give the pop­ulist party the op­por­tu­nity to influence pol­icy, par­tic­u­larly on im­mi­gra­tion.

Ad­dress­ing sup­port­ers last Sun­day night, the Swe­den Democrats’ leader, Jim­mie Åkesson, said the 63 seats it would have in the 349-seat Riks­dag rep­re­sented vic­tory. “No one can take that away from us.”

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