Far-right upsets Swedish status quo
A far-right party entered the Swedish Parliament for the first time in elections on Sunday, spoiling the centre-right government's victory and majority, and plunging the country into political disarray, preliminary results showed.
Prime Minister Fredrik Reinfeldt was seeking to become the first centre-right leader to win re-election after serving a full term in a Scandinavian welfare nation dominated for decades by the left-wing Social Democrats.
But the far-right Sweden Democrats held the balance of power after winning 5.7% of the votes for 20 seats in the 349-seat legislature, according to preliminary results from 99% of voting districts.
Mr Reinfeldt's four-party coalition won 172 seats, three short of a majority, while the left-wing opposition got 157 seats.
Mr Reinfeldt's coalition, called the Alliance for Sweden, has been boosted by popular tax cuts and healthy public finances that stand out in debt-ridden Europe.
The 45-year-old prime minister said his government would stay in office and seek support from the small opposition Green Party, to avoid having to rely on the Sweden Democrats. "I have been clear on how we will handle this insecure situation: We will not cooperate, or become dependent on, the Sweden Democrats," Mr Reinfeldt said.
Green Party leader Maria Wetterstrand, who campaigned with the Social Democrats and the ex-communist Left Party, at first rejected the idea, saying she couldn't envision supporting a government "that doesn't have a climate policy."
The result suggested a hung Parliament, because both blocs have ruled out governing with the Sweden Democrats, who want sharp cuts in immigration and have called Islam Sweden's biggest foreign threat since the Second World War.
If Mr Reinfeldt fails to solve the impasse he will be left with a fragile minority government that could be forced to resign if it fails to push crucial legislation through Parliament.
Sweden Democrats leader Jimmie Akesson said his party had "written political history" in the election. "Party colleagues, we're in Parliament!" he told jubilant supporters in Stockholm.