Sweden faces weeks of uncertainty after knife-edge election result
Anti-immigration party the Sweden Democrats took about 18% of the vote.
Sweden has woken up to the prospect of weeks of political uncertainty after the country’s two rival blocs failed to secure a clear governing majority in the general election.
The poll also saw a boost for a far-right party amid growing discontent over immigration.
With most of the ballots counted, the governing centre-left bloc had a razor-thin edge over the centre-right opposition Alliance, with roughly 40% each.
Sunday’s election saw the Sweden Democrats, an anti-immigrant party with roots in a neo-Nazi movement, win about 18%, up from the 13% it gained four years earlier.
The party, which has worked to moderate its image in past years, saw gains amid a backlash against the challenges of integrating hundreds of thousands of immigrants who have arrived in the Scandinavian nation over the past few years.
Prime Minister Stefan Lofven, who brought the Social Democrats to power in 2014, said he intends to remain in the job.
The centre-left party emerged with the greatest share of the vote – 28.4% as the count neared completion – but will probably hold fewer parliamentary seats than four years ago.
The leader of the Moderates party that came in second, Ulf Kristersson, has already called on Mr Lofven to resign and claimed the right to form Sweden’s next government.
The centre-right, four-party Alliance has said it would meet to discuss how to move forward and demand the resignation of Mr Lofven, head of the minority, two-party governing coalition.
We won't mourn, we will organise ourselves Prime Minister Stefan Lofven
Final election returns are expected later in the week. The preliminary results make it unlikely that any party would secure a majority of 175 seats in the 349-seat Riksdag, Sweden’s parliament.
With the prospect of weeks or months of coalition talks before the next government is formed, Swedish tabloid Expressen headlined its front page: “Chaos”.
Both the left-leaning bloc led by the Social Democrats and the centre-right bloc have said they would refuse to consider the Sweden Democrats as a coalition partner.
Mr Lofven told his supporters the election presented “a situation that all responsible parties must deal with”, adding that “a party with roots in Nazism” would “never ever offer anything responsible, but hatred”.
He added: “We have a moral responsibility. We must gather all forces for good. We won’t mourn, we will organise ourselves.”
Sweden – home to the Nobel prizes and militarily neutral for the better part of two centuries – has been known for its comparatively open doors to migrants and refugees.
Sunday’s general election was the first since Sweden, which a population of 10 million, took in a record 163,000 refugees in 2015 — the highest per capita of any European country.
Turnout in the election was reported at 84.4%, up from 83% in 2014.