STOCKHOLM—The Swedish national elections have ended in parliamentary deadlock with no clear winner, making for an uncertain and dramatic time ahead.
It was a very close call between the two traditional blocs on election night. The conservative/neo-liberal bloc, known as the Alliance, held 142 seats, and the left/green held 144. The result may shift slightly during the coming weeks, as the vote count is finalized.
The nationalist Sweden Democrats, which are members of neither block, are now kingmakers in parliament with 63 seats.
The problem, however, is that nobody wants to be made king by the Sweden Democrats. All other parties have so far refused to even enter into talks with them.
The two major blocs regularly tar the Sweden Democrats with the brush of “racism,” but it is now a major party that draws from the mainstream of Swedish society. The Sweden Democrats say they aren’t racists, but the other parties don’t want to deal with the consequences of failed immigration policies.
Sweden Democrat party leader Jimmie Akesson triumphantly proclaimed his party the winners of the election, and reached out to the Alliance candidate for prime minister, Ulf Kristersson.
“This is crunch time,” he said in his election night speech. “Are you going to pick [Social Democrat] Stefan Lofven or Jimmie Akesson? We want an answer to that question now.”
The speaker will now begin rounds to find the next prime minister, who is scheduled to form a cabinet toward the end of September. The two most likely candidates are Ulf Kristersson of the Moderate party, and the incumbent prime minister, Stefan Lofven.
‘This government is done’
In his speech, an upbeat Ulf Kristersson urged Lofven to step down and let the speaker take over the process.
“This government is done,” he said. “It should never have been formed, and now it needs to step down.”
Prime Minister Stefan Lofven praised his government’s achievements and told his followers to be proud. He emphasized that the Social Democrats are still the biggest party.
”The most responsible thing right now is not to speculate,” he said, adding that he will “calmly remain as a prime minister” until the speaker begins his work.
He also renewed his efforts to cross the aisle.
“This night should be the funeral of bloc politics,” he said.
The Social Democrats have made attempts to reach out to the Alliance, but have so far been rebuffed. This means that forming a majority in parliament will mean that one or more parties will need to reverse their stance, and either cross the left-right divide, or open up some kind of channel to the Sweden Democrats.
Apart from the continued rise of the Sweden Democrats, the main story in this election is the downfall of the Social Democrat party, the main force in Swedish politics during the postwar era. Receiving 28 percent of the vote, the Social Democrats had their worst election since universal suffrage, but still did slightly better than expected at the outset of the election campaign. Their dominant position in Swedish politics during the entire postwar era, during which they have sometimes garnered more than half the vote, now seems precarious.
After the migrant crisis in 2015, the Social Democrats appear to have lost voters both to the Sweden Democrats, who want to severely limit immigration, and to the formerly communist Left party, which wants a more generous immigration policy. The Left party, which is not formally part of the Left-Green government, increased their support. Meanwhile, the Green party, the minor partner in the current government, lost support and just barely remained in parliament.
The election campaign has been one of the most polarized and bitter in recent memory, reflecting a new, more combative political landscape. The last months have seen name-calling, protests, threats, sabotage, and a string of strange incidents of a kind new to Sweden. Last week, for instance, it was revealed that false information about the right-wing parties was spread to Muslim voters in Arabic by local Social Democrat representatives. Actual political issues have largely taken a backseat to similar antics.
Voters, meanwhile, have named healthcare, crime, and immigration as the most important issues.