March 31, 2023

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Sweden’s right-wing opposition advances in elections

Sweden's right-wing opposition advances in elections

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  • Social Democrat Prime Minister Anderson faces right-wing opposition
  • Kristerson’s moderate alliance with the Swedish Democrats
  • Campaigns focus on crime and the cost of living crisis
  • Polls close at 1800 GMT, and preliminary results are scheduled for Wednesday

STOCKHOLM (Reuters) – Sweden’s right-wing bloc has made the narrowest advance, with nearly 90 percent of the vote counted after Sunday’s general election, and results point to the formation of a new government after eight years of Social Democrats rule.

Early Monday, figures showed the Moderates, Sweden Democrats, Christian Democrats and Liberals winning 176 seats in the 349-seat parliament, against 173 from the centre-left.

In further evidence of the shift to the right, the anti-immigration Swedish Democrats are set to overtake the moderates as Sweden’s second largest party and largest in opposition – a historic shift in a country that has long prided itself on tolerance and openness.

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However, moderate leader Ulf Christerson is likely to be the right-wing candidate for prime minister.

“We don’t know what the outcome will be,” Christerson told supporters. “But I am willing to do everything in my power to form a new, stable and strong government for all of Sweden and all of its citizens.”

With some outside votes and some postal votes not yet counted, and the margin between the two blocks very slim, the results can still be changed. The prime minister, SPD MP Magdalena Anderson, did not admit defeat on election night, saying the results were too close.

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The election authority said a preliminary result would be available on Wednesday at the earliest.

Christerson said he would seek to form a government with the young Christian Democrats, possibly the Liberals, relying solely on Sweden’s democratic backing in Parliament. But it can be hard for him to keep away with a party that’s scheduled to be bigger than his own.

“At the moment it looks like there will be a change in power. Our ambition is to sit in government,” Swedish Democrat leader Jimmy Akesson told supporters at a post-election ceremony.

“Twelve years ago we got into Parliament, I think we finally got 5.7%. Now we have 20.7%.”

cruel to crime

Campaigning has seen the parties battle to be the toughest on gang crime, after a steady rise in shootings alarmed voters, while rising inflation and an energy crisis in the wake of the invasion of Ukraine increasingly took center stage.

While issues of law and order are home to the right, gathering economic clouds as families and businesses face sky-high energy prices have bolstered Prime Minister Anderson, who is seen as a safe-handed pair more popular than her party. Read more

Andersen was finance minister for many years before becoming Sweden’s first female prime minister a year ago.

Christerson had presented himself as the only candidate who could unite and dislodge the Right.

in the mainstream

When Kristerson took over as leader of the moderates in 2017, the Swedish Democrats, an anti-immigration party that includes white extremists among its founders, was shunned by both the right and the left. But Kristerson has gradually cemented ties between the parties since losing the 2018 election and Sweden’s Democrats are increasingly seen as part of the right-wing mainstream. Read more

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The possibility that Sweden’s Democrats would have a say in government policy or join the Cabinet split the electorate.

“I am very afraid that a very repressive and right-wing government will come in,” Malin Eriksson, 53, a travel consultant, said earlier on Sunday at a polling station in central Stockholm.

The Swedish Democrats’ strong result fits into a pattern of right-wing anti-immigration gains across Europe as Italy looks set to elect a conservative bloc including the Georgia Meloni Brothers of Italy (FdI) and Matteo Salvini’s League later this month.

“I voted for a change of power,” said Jürgen Hellström 47, a small business owner, casting his vote near Parliament. “Taxes should come down a little bit and we need to sort out the crime. The past eight years have gone in the wrong direction.”

Regardless of which bloc wins, negotiations to form a government in a polarized and emotionally charged political landscape are likely to be long and difficult.

Anderson will need to get support from the Center and Left parties, which are ideologically opposites, and the Greens too, if she wants a second term as prime minister.

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Additional reporting by Janis Layzans, Isabella Ronca, Terry Solsvik and Anna Ringstrom; Editing by William MacLean, Elaine Hardcastle, Catherine Evans, Diane Kraft and Lincoln Feast

Our criteria: Thomson Reuters Trust Principles.