Monday, 19 November, 2018

Sweden faces political impasse after far-right election gains

JONATHAN NACKSTRAND  AFP  Getty Images JONATHAN NACKSTRAND AFP Getty Images
Andrew Cummings | 12 September, 2018, 02:32

"Nevertheless, voters made the Social Democrats Sweden's biggest party", Lofven said. He, like all of the other parties, has categorically ruled out any cooperation with the far-right.

The Social Democrats represent one of just many far-right parties that have risen to prominence over the last few years.

There was a sense of relief among supporters of mainstream parties about the far-right's less dramatic gains.

But in order to secure a center-right majority in parliament, Kristersson would have to put an end to the Sweden Democrats' pariah status and open negotiations with them.

In particular, the governing Social Democratic Party seems to have had its worst electoral performance in a century.

"We will gain huge influence over what happens in Sweden during the coming weeks, months and years", SD leader Jimmie Akesson promised his party rally.

The Moderates - the biggest party in the Alliance - are not interested in co-operating with the Social Democrats and any such deal would also raise questions about democratic accountability.

While the results need to be taken with caution - the votes of Swedish expats living overseas are not included yet and will only be released sometime this week, it seems clear already: the right-wing "populists" once again performed well, while finding a government will be tough for everyone involved.

The governing party is still likely to be either the first-place center-left Social Democrats or the second-place center-right Moderate Party, the.

Party leader Jimmie Akesson has said there is no place for racism in the party, which in the build up to the elections called the arrival of nearly 400,000 asylum seekers into Sweden since 2012 a threat to national culture and a strain on Sweden's welfare system.

The Sweden Democrats have been championing closed borders for years and want to severely restrict immigration and integration.

With both options unpalatable to the traditional players, forming a government could take weeks.

The Sweden Democrats came third with 17.6 percent, about 5 percentage points more than four years ago.

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The potential of a surge by the party had many Swedes anxious about an erosion of the humanitarian values that have always been a foundation of their country's identity.

"If the red-green bloc is bigger, the Centre and the Liberals hold the key and not Jimmie Akesson", the Sweden Democrat leader, said University of Gothenburg political science professor Mikael Gilliam on Swedish public radio.

Sweden headed for a hung parliament after an election on Sunday that saw support for the nationalist Sweden Democrats surge, as one of Europe's most liberal nations turns right amid fears over immigration.

"If nobody is talking about stuff that people see as problems, the only answers and understanding that they're going to have are the ones offered by the populist parties".

Neither can win the confidence of the 349-seat parliament without the SD's 62 votes.

The Election Authority said Monday it will perform another count of votes after Sunday's election, as is customary.

But Kristersson and Christian Democrats leader Ebba Busch Thor rejected his invitation, according to Dagens Nyheter.

"The Alliance have already gone out and locked themselves up in a position", she said.

The Sweden Democrats for their part have pledged to sink any government that refuses to give them a say in policy, particularly on immigration.

Akesson had labelled the vote a choice between immigration and welfare in a campaign that was unusually antagonistic. Many allege that immigrants were behind the massive vehicle bombing spree in August, which saw 160 cars torched.

"He said he was interested in cooperating with the other parties, and wanted to tell the Moderates in particular 'how to govern the country".

The prime minister must choose between: risking losing core voters by dealing with the party he calls racist; and bargaining, for the sake of his career.

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