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Nationalists ‘make gains’ in early Swedish exit polls

Nationalists 'make gains' in early Swedish exit polls


A TV4 exit poll predicted the Social Democrats would win 25.4 percent of votes, while public broadcaster SVT credited them with 26.2 percent, down from 31 percent in the 2014 elections. 

It remained uncertain however if Lofven, who heads one of the few left-wing governments in Europe, would be able to rustle up enough support in parliament to build a government.


The far-right Sweden Democrats (SD), which have capitalised on voters’ frustration over immigration after the country welcomed almost 400,000 asylum seekers since 2012, were expected to make gains, both exit polls showed.


The TV4 poll credited Sweden Democrats with 16.3 percent of votes, while the SVT poll gave it 19.2 percent, compared to 12.9 percent in elections four years ago. 

The forecasts were however lower than hoped for by Sweden Democrats leader Jimmie Akesson. He said earlier Sunday he expected to clinch between 20 and 30 percent of votes.


Marine Le Pen of France’s far-right Front National nonetheless hailed Sweden Democrats’s projected rise, tweeting: “Yet another bad night ahead for the European Union. The democratic revolution in Europe is moving forward!”


Lofven had called the election a “referendum on the future of the welfare state” but Sweden Democrats presented it as a vote on immigrants and their integration.


Sweden Democrats, with roots in the neo-Nazi movement, has said the large number of asylum-seekers presents a threat to Swedish culture and claims they put a strain on the country’s generous welfare state.


Around 18.5 percent of Sweden’s population of 10 million was born abroad, according to Statistics Sweden.


Lofven had urged Swedes not to vote for what he called a “racist party” as he cast his ballot Sunday.


“It’s… about decency, about a decent democracy. And the Social Democrats and a Social Democratic-led government is a guarantee for not letting the Sweden Democrats extremist party, racist party, get any influence in the government.”


The Social Democrats, traditionally the biggest party, have led a minority government with the Greens since 2014, with the informal support of the ex-communist Left Party to pass legislation in parliament.


If the Social Democrats’ exit poll scores were confirmed, it would be their worst showing in more than a century.


‘Hostile to foreigners’

Anna Berglund, a 28-year-old lawyer who voted for the small Centre Party at a polling station in Stockholm’s upmarket Ostermalm neighbourhood, said Sweden Democrats’s mounting support was “bad news”.


“I’m afraid we’re becoming a society that is more hostile to foreigners.”


The head of the four-party Alliance (the conservative Moderates, Centre, Liberals and Christian Democrats), Ulf Kristersson, told AFP on voting day he was concerned over Sweden Democrats’ rise.


“I have tried to prove to voters during the election campaign that if you really want a change, you have to vote… for our four parties. We are the guarantee to oust the current government from power,” he said.


Well aware that neither Lofven’s “red-green” bloc nor his own Alliance stands a chance of winning a majority, Kristersson has said Sweden needs “a strong cross-bloc cooperation to isolate the forces… pushing for Sweden to withdraw from international cooperation”.


‘Time to talk to Sweden Democrats’

The final election results were due late Sunday, but the composition of the next government may not be known for weeks.


Lengthy negotiations will be needed to build a majority, or at least a minority that won’t be toppled by the opposite side.


The opposition is intent on ousting Lofven, with some Moderates willing to go so far as to put an end to SD’s pariah status and open negotiations with them.


That could prove fatal for the Alliance, with the Liberal and Centre parties repeatedly ruling out a deal with Sweden Democrats.


None of the seven parties have been willing to negotiate with Sweden Democrats, which first entered parliament in 2006 with 5.7 percent of votes.


“The problems in society that we warned of have grown bigger and worse and people agree with our view of reality,” Sweden Democrats parliamentary group leader Mattias Karlsson told SVT.


“When the same party time and again increases, and the other parties stand still, then you have to listen to that part of the population that is voting for this party. It’s time to take responsibility and talk to the Sweden Democrats,” he said.


In an interview with AFP during the campaign, Akesson stressed he would “lay down his terms” after the election, citing immigration policy, crime-fighting and health care as priorities.