It's hurry up and wait in Sweden today. Election results are in and it looks very much like deadlock, with the ruling centre-left coalition earning 144 seats while the centre-right opposition earned 143. With 63 seats and 17.6 per cent of the vote, the far-right Sweden Democrats have the potential to play kingmaker- but that doesn't look likely at the moment as both coalitions have said they will not work with the party, which has its roots in Swedish fascism. All this could mean weeks of talks and uncertainty before a workable government can be formed.
Sophia Gaston, deputy director of the Henry Jackson Society think tank spoke to Good Morning Europe on Monday about the days ahead.
"We're obviously turning now to coalition negotiations which is going to be incredibly challenging," she said. "Neither of the traditional coalitions, the Red-Green Alliance on the left or the alliance of the centre-right have been able to achieve a majority, even with a whole bunch of different parties cobbled together."
"So there are a number of different ways it could go from here, we might end up with supply and demand agreement, we might end up even with a historically unprecedented coalition between the Moderates and the Social Democrats. Either way, what we are looking at is a government that is going to take a long time to form, and it's obviously going to be weaker in its mandate. And I think we can expect to see the Sweden Democrats in this Parliamentary term really trying to position themselves as the official opposition."
The most certain thing about the election so far is that the far-right has made significant gains. The Sweden Democrats won 17.6 per cent and 63 seats, up from 12.9 per cent and 49 seats in the last election four years ago, which is the biggest gain by any party in Sweden’s parliament. Despite that, the result was worse than party leader Jimmie Akesson had projected- he had hoped for more that 20 per cent. But Gaston characterized the gains as more than just a number.
"I think we can see this election result as not only a gain in the terms of the vote share that the Sweden Democrats have been able to secure and of course their parliamentary representation result, but also the fact that they have utterly shaped the agenda of this campaign," she said.
"They have put immigration and all of the issues that are core to them at the heart of their policy agenda really front and centre in this campaign. And it has exposed a lot of the weaknesses in the traditional parties in dealing with these issues."
And it's not just in Sweden. Countries all over the EU are grappling with a new conversation, one where it's impossible to ignore the presence and influence of far right groups.
"I think this just highlights that these issues are certainly not going anywhere," said Gaston. "I think there has been a tendency for two schools of thought, either you believe that the far right is going to overrun Europe and the EU's days are numbered, or you believe that with every election the far right party doesn't become the largest party, everything's okay. I think where we are really is somewhere in the middle. It's a big existential crisis for Europe, and all of the traditional parties are going to have to quickly shape up and learn to discuss issues about culture and identity and values in a way they've never really had to before."