Sweden’s governing centre-left coalition have pipped rivals of the centre-right bloc but fell short of a majority, as nationalist party Sweden Democrats made significant gains — prompting uncertainty over who can form a stable government.
The results are preliminary, not yet final. Political science professor at Gothenburg University, Henrik Oscarsson, noted previously that any late votes and votes by Swedes abroad will be counted on Wednesday.
Here are five things we learned from the Swedish elections:
'Funeral of bloc politics': Centre-left, centre-right blocs in dead heat
The centre-left coalition appears to have barely edged out the centre-right bloc, but not without taking hits. Preliminary results — with over 97% districts counted — showed the governing Social Democrats, Greens and Left Party coalition winning with 40.6% of the votes while the opposition bloc made of the Moderates, the Christian Democrats and the Centre Party and the Liberals winning 40.1% of the votes.
The Social Democrats are poised to lose 13 seats in the Riksdag, a devastating blow to the party that has been the dominant player in Swedish politics for decades.
The party and its centre-left coalition will still struggle to form a new government, and the Alliance bloc will also put up a fight. On Sunday Liberal Party leader Jan Björklund, with the centre-right Alliance bloc, said he wanted to form a government but ruled out any chance of cooperating with the far-right Sweden Democrats.
"I want an Alliance government, but it will not happen in cooperation with the Sweden Democrats," Bjorklund said at a rally.
Prime Minister Stefan Löfven, with the Social Democratic party, called for the "the funeral of bloc politics" during his speech on Sunday night.
With both blocs well short of a majority, it appears they have no choice.
Anti-immigration Sweden Democrats make gains
Euroskeptics the Sweden Democrats came in third with 17.7% of the votes, a huge jump when comparing it to the 12.9% it secured in the last election. Party leader Jimmie Åkesson said he was prepared to talk and cooperate with all other parties after election results showed strides made for SD.
"We increase our seats in parliament and we see that we will gain huge influence over what happens in Sweden during the coming weeks, months and years," said SD leader Jimmie Åkesson at a party rally.
"We will gain huge influence over what happens in Sweden during the coming weeks, months and years.”
Sweden Democrats’ significant gains further illustrate the growing discontent — even anger — with immigration policies following the 2015 migrant crisis. Italy’s populist Interior Minister Matteo Salvini wrote on Twitter on Sunday night: "The #Sweden of multiculturalism and the model of the left, after years of wild immigration, has finally decided to change. Now even there with Jimmie #Åkesson they say no to this Europe of bureaucrats and speculators, no to illegal immigrants, no to Islamic extremism.”
Immigration and national identity were some of the key issues voters considered this election. Sweden took in more asylum seekers per capita than any other country in Europe in 2015, with the Sweden Democrats rising in popularity on the back of fears of the collapse of the welfare system because of an increasing number of immigrants.
Uncertainty remains. Will the Sweden Democrats hold the cards?
With neither bloc able to secure an outright majority, the Sweden Democrats — who want the country to leave the European Union and put a freeze on immigration — could play a decisive role in coalitions talks over forming a new government and said it is ready to talk with all parties, including the leader put forward as the Alliance bloc’s prime minister, Ulf Kristersson,
But the leader of Sweden's Liberal Party, Jan Björklund, which is part of the Alliance bloc, said on Sunday he wanted a centre-right government but that it would not come as a result of any cooperation with the unaligned, anti-immigration Sweden Democrats.
"I want an Alliance government, but it will not happen in cooperation with the Sweden Democrats," Björklund told a party rally.
For now, Kristersson has said he will discuss next steps on how to form a government with Alliance partners — and called on the governing coalition to resign.
"This government has run its course," he said at a rally. “Now it should resign."
Lovfen, however, dismissed the idea.
"We have two weeks left until parliament opens. I will work on calmly, as prime minister, respecting voters and the Swedish electoral system," he said at his rally.
Small parties make gains
While mainstream parties like the Social Democrats and the Moderates took a hard fall, the smaller parties made eye-catching gains from the periphery. The Centre Party and Left Party increased their votes by 2.5% and 2.2% respectively while the Christian Democrats brought in 1.8% more votes compared to the 2014 parliamentary elections.
Another party that drew attention, but for the wrong reasons, was the Greens, which is poised to barely cross the 4% threshold needed to secure a seat in parliament. The junior party with the governing centre-left bloc fumbled with 2.4% fewer votes than the last election.
Voters 'harassed' at polling stations
Swedish media reported that voters and journalists were harassed at several polling stations by members of the neo-Nazi Nordic Resistance Movement. Svenska Dagbladet newspaper said the Nordic Resistance Movement entered some balloting stations in Boden, Ludvica, and Kungälv, and attempted to take photos of voters and their voting slips.