Saturday, 22 September, 2018

Sweden election: Political deadlock likely after gains by far-right party

Sweden election gives boost to far-right anti-immigration party even as it falls short of goals Swedish election: Nationalists 'make gains' in early exit polls
Leonard Rios | 12 September, 2018, 02:34

"We have a moral responsibility", AP quoted the prime minister as saying. A separate exit poll by TV4 also had the main blocs in a dead heat, but only gave the Sweden Democrats 16.3 per cent.

The Sweden Democrats (SD) have always been subject of controversy since their founding.

"Lofven had called the election a "referendum on the future of the welfare state", but the far right presented it as a vote on immigrants and their integration".

Despite their successes, the Sweden Democrats remain an unlikely coalition partner for the other parties.

Leaders in Brussels will be disappointed with the party's surge ahead of the European Parliament's elections in May next year, as they bid to discourage euroskepticism following the UK's decision to leave the EU, and as populist parties form alliances to shake up the EU establishment ahead of the vote.

"We will gain huge influence over what happens in Sweden during the coming weeks, months and years", he told supporters.

If neither side's coalition is able to put together a majority, and no major party is willing to cross ideological lines and form a new coalition, the center-right Moderates could theoretically look to unofficially cooperate with the Sweden Democrats (which would, of course, come with strings attached).

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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. Although both major parties have ruled out formally ruling with the Sweden Democrats in a coalition, the center-right Moderates have said they would not reject support in areas where the parties' positions coincide.

Speaking after the exit poll, Sweden Democrat group leader Mattias Karlsson said an unstable post-election period won't be his party's fault.

Dragan Pau, 64, a builder taking a break from renovating a nearby apartment, said he doubted his party, the far-right, anti-immigration Sweden Democrats, had won the influence it had hoped for. As for Sweden Democrats' warning of the "Islamization" of Sweden, the average Swede vastly overestimates the percentage of the population that is Muslim. "Nationalist populism is still advancing, and it will complicate forming a government".

The center-right Moderates have become especially tough on immigration, echoing numerous positions of the Sweden Democrats.

"A strategy that was tried to win back voters from the Sweden Democrats meant that the Social Democrats fell even more", said Bjereld. And the party is a far cry from its first-ever national election in 1988, when it won less than 0.1 percent of the vote. Sweden's own form of parliamentary democracy - which uses proportional representation to distribute seats in the country's parliament, the Riksdag, according to the proportion of votes they received - ensures some level of political fragmentation.

But a grand coalition would have to involve at least three parties, making for a painful coalition negotiation. Voters on Sunday did not doubt the Nordic welfare model, but many hesitate to let more immigrants without similar cultural traits share the system. Some critics say that these situations also compel mainstream parties to pander toward the fringes - a criticism that certainly has emerged about Rutte.

"Terrible! I just wanna cry when I think about it", said Veronica Lundqvist, referring to the Sweden Democrats after she left a voting booth in central Stockholm. A year ago in October, almost seven months after the March election, prime minister Mark Rutte pulled together a shaky coalition of four parties on a centre-right programme. Instead, it told a more subtle but increasingly familiar tale now seen across a variety of European parliamentary systems and perhaps further afield, too - that of increasing political fragmentation and the slow decline of dominant political parties.

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