Once a fringe party shunned by others across the political spectrum, preliminary results showed the Sweden Democrats received nearly 21% of the vote.
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A group of right-wing political parties secured a razor-thin lead in Sweden’s general election, according to early results, and appear to be on course to defeat a left-wing bloc led by Swedish Prime Minister Magdalena Andersson.
Exit polls Sunday initially projected a narrow victory for Andersson’s ruling center-left Social Democrats and their allies, although the tally has since swung to the political right as partial results were released throughout the evening.
After roughly 95% of the vote had been counted Monday morning, a right-wing bloc of four parties, led by Ulf Kristersson’s center-right Moderates, had a total of 175 seats, with the anti-immigration Sweden Democrats party set to record its best election result yet.
The four parties that support Andersson as prime minister, meanwhile, looked poised to win 174 seats.
If these results are confirmed, it means the right-wing group of parties has secured a parliamentary majority which could pave the way for the bloc to try to form a government.
A conclusive result is not expected until Wednesday at the earliest, with mail-in ballots and votes from citizens living abroad still to be counted.
There are a total of eight parties (four on the right; four on the left) vying for seats in Sweden’s 349-seat parliament, or Riksdag.
Sunday’s preliminary results suggest that the Social Democrats secured 30.5% of the vote, reaffirming its position as the largest party. However, Andersson may struggle to remain in power as a result of the far-right Sweden Democrats making substantial gains.
Sweden, a Scandinavian country of roughly 10.5 million, has a reputation for being one of Europe’s most progressive states and consistently ranks among the happiest nations in the world.
Andersson became Sweden’s first-ever female prime minister last year.
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The Sweden Democrats emerged from the country’s neo-Nazi movement in the late 1980s and early 1990s and have since struggled to distance themselves from accusations of extremism. The party won representation in the Riksdag for the first time in 2010 with 5.7% of the vote.
A gradual increase in national support thereafter prompted the center-right Moderate party to embrace cooperation with the Sweden Democrats in 2018. Kristersson’s Moderates had previously ruled out negotiating with the right-wing party.
Sunday’s preliminary results saw the Moderate party get 19.1% of the vote, with leader Kristersson likely to be the right-wing bloc’s preferred candidate for prime minister.
“We don’t know what the result will be,” Kristersson told supporters, Reuters reported. “But I am ready to do all I can to form a new, stable and vigorous government for the whole of Sweden and all its citizens.”
Sony Kapoor, a climate and macro-economic professor at European University Institute, said via Twitter that the preliminary results suggested the Sweden Democrats would become the country’s largest party on the political right and potentially be able to pick the next prime minister.
“This is a tragedy in many acts,” Kapoor said.