Anti-immigrant party wins 20% in Sweden vote

Casey GreeneSep 11, 2018

The ruling Social Democrats remained the biggest party with 40.6 percent of votes, marginally ahead of the centre-right Alliance, which garnered 40.3 percent in the polls, results showed after most votes were counted on Monday. However, the mainstream parties are extremely reluctant to work with the group, because of its nationalist, exclusivist values.

Voters in Sweden appear to be split in an unpredictable general election that may turn into one of the most thrilling races in the Scandinavian country's history for decades amid heated debate on immigration.

In the 2010 election the party got 20 mandates in Parliament, but this year the hardliners ended up with 63. The Sweden Democrats received 13 percent of vote in the last election held four years ago.

How significant is the tiny difference in vote share between the two blocs? The Conservatives were the biggest losers, down 3.5% compared to 2014. But the process could take weeks and possibly fail, with the Sweden Democrats vowing to sink any cabinet that doesn't give them a say in policy.

With nearly all districts having reported, the ruling center-left Social Democrats and Greens and their Left Party parliamentary allies had 40.6 per cent of the vote, while the opposition centre-right Alliance was at 40.3 per cent.

Anna Berglund, a 28-year-old lawyer who voted for the small Centre Party at a polling station in Stockholm's upmarket Ostermalm neighbourhood, said SD's mounting support was "bad news".

Both sides laid claim to being best placed to form a government, although votes from Swedes living overseas are not due to be declared until Wednesday and these could still sway the final outcome slightly. Immigration was, for a long time, a taboo subject for the major parties; now it's not only acceptable, but some politicians even talk about deporting immigrants.

However, the situation created by these results is new.

"We have been completely clear during the whole election", he said.

While the result is a boost for the Sweden Democrats, the party fell short of pre-election predictions. The only possible way to form a successful governing coalition, therefore, would be for the parties to secure support from their ideological opponents.

An exit polls by public broadcaster SVT suggested the centre-right Alliance got 39.6% of the vote, slightly more than the Social Democrats on 39.4%.

Supporters attend the Social Democratic Party's election night party in Stockholm Sweden Sunday Sept. 9 2018. A preliminary count from Sweden's general election showed an anti-immigrant party with a neo Nazi past placing third and the ruling

And earlier today the right-wing populist party reached out to the Moderates and the Christian Democrats from the centre-right bloc - inviting them to negotiate terms if they wanted support. "[The Social Democrats] had been seen as too polite, too open, and too much embracing of globalization and migration".

His voters are well-placed to understand Europe-wide social problems.

Far-right parties have made big gains throughout Europe in recent years after a refugee crisis sparked by civil war in Syria and continuing conflicts in Afghanistan and parts of Africa.

"The election is between potential democracy and potential facism", he told AFP. An exit poll ranking the issues citizens placed at the top of their agenda saw classic welfare topics such as healthcare, education, gender equality, law and order and elderly care come out on top.

But it would then be under constant threat from the Sweden Democrats, out to topple it at the first opportunity.

Dr Ben Wellings, a senior lecturer in politics and worldwide relations at Monash University, told SBS News the result was "part of an emerging picture [in Europe] where support for radical right parties is creeping upwards".

Negotiations and discussions will stretch out over the coming days as the political uncertainty looms large over the country.

Jimmie Åkesson, Sweden Democrats leader, promised to wield "real influence" in parliament after the modest gains.

The trouble is, the two centre-most parties of the centre-right bloc (the Centre and Liberal party) have said that they will not under any circumstances consider that.

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.

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