Sweden’s general election this weekend resulted in a tie between left and right factions, with the governing Social Democrats scoring the lowest in a century with only 28.4% of the vote and the far-right Sweden Democrats (SD) winning an unprecedented 17.6%.
The election results reflect Swedes’ growing discontent with the changes brought on by the arrival of 163,000 Muslim immigrants.
Sweden, with a population comparable to that of metro Chicago, has taken in far more refugees per capita than any other country in Europe. Sweden is now struggling with shortages of doctors and teachers, long waits for operations, and an uptick in violent crime.
Muslim immigrants have caused huge disruptions to Sweden's treasured welfare system. And while giving the SD more power could cause even more disruptions, it at least sends a clear message to those in power that they are losing control of the country.
Sweden’s new government, which could take weeks to form, will necessitate cross-bloc alliances between the center-right and center-left or deals with the SD to pass legislation.
The SD, who have long been shunned by other parties for their extremist views, are already promising to wield “real influence” in Parliament.
Party leader Jimmie Åkesson (pictured above) considers the 63 seats his party has in the 349-seat Parliament a victory. “We will have an immense influence over what happens in Sweden in the coming weeks, months, years,” he said.
Like the UK, Sweden has become accustomed to coalition governments and did not expect any party to win a majority this time.
The current coalition, led by Prime Minister Stefan Löfven, is comprised of his Social Democrats and the Green Party - with ad hoc support from the Left Party. Löfven’s rivals are a center-right alliance made up of the Moderates, the Center, the Liberals, and the Christian Democrats.
Each side has roughly 40% of the vote, but neither has enough seats to govern on its own. Both have refused to govern alongside the SD.
“The Sweden Democrats can never, and will never, offer anything that will help society,” said Löfven. “They will only increase division and hate.”
Löfven, who will face a confidence vote in two weeks, said the two mainstream parties now had a “moral responsibility” to form a government. If Löfven is forced down, Parliament will be dissolved and fresh negotiations will begin.
Analysts predict Moderate Party leader Ulf Kristersson, who on Sunday called on Löfven to resign, will attempt to form a minority center-right government, possibly in coalition with the Christian Democrats and with implied support from the SD. Such an arrangement would give the anti-immigration party the opportunity to influence policy in exchange for votes.
Åkesson has expressed interest in working with the other parties, but said he wanted to tell the Moderates “how to govern the country.”