Tuesday, 25 September, 2018

Swedes weigh choices before vote likely to boost far-right

Jimmie Akesson Sweden goes to the polls with far-right group with neo-Nazi roots tipped to become largest party
Ebony Burgess | 11 September, 2018, 07:38

Sweden's general elections have resulted in deadlock after the two main centrist coalitions failed to win a majority and the far-right Sweden Democrats party made significant gains over immigration fears.

If the right-wingers were included in the conservative bloc, there would be a large conservative majority in this election, but so far the Sweden Democrats have not formed any coalition.

Both the Social Democrats and the Moderates, the two largest traditional parties on the left and right respectively, saw their share in the vote shrink from the numbers they posted in 2014.

"In some sense we're happy the Sweden Democrats didn't grow more than they did", Liberal Party lawmaker Allan Widman told Reuters.

Mr. Kristersson called on Mr. Lofven to resign, but also rebuffed Mr. Akesson.

"We have two weeks left until parliament opens".

Akesson was jubilant as he addressed supporters a day later, declaring the estimated 14 parliament seats the Social Democrats picked up a victory other parties could not ignore in coalition negotiations.

"We wanted to see a better result, there's no doubt about that".

Party leader Akesson told Swedish public radio on Monday he expected to wield major influence.

Analysts said that the most likely outcome was a centre-right alliance forming a minority government, with backing from the radical right.

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"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.

Since 2015, the center-left government has sharply restricted immigration, but many Swedes complain that society can not cope with integrating so many newcomers, many of them Muslims from Africa and the Middle East. The Left Party was happy to take 7.9% of the vote, a 2.2% increase on previous form.

Both blocs have declared themselves victors in the election, but need additional support to form a viable government without the Sweden Democrats, who want influence over immigration policy. It was outwardly crowing but in private its supporters are disappointed after some had predicted they would become the country's biggest. So far, however, that seems unlikely as the Alliance has rejected any cooperation with the Sweden Democrats. But thanks to the Sweden Democrats, it became a question that couldn't go unanswered, Johan Hassel, the Social Democrats' worldwide secretary, said after the vote. "No one can take that away from us", he said, according to The Guardian. We suffered from the refugee crisis in 2015. Among other things, the party no longer advocates for reintroducing the death penalty or for limiting the adoption of non-Nordic children.

Voter Anton Loin said Swedes were increasingly looking for political alternatives. "The Sweden Democrats, they've divided people up into us and them". As for Sweden Democrats' warning of the "Islamization" of Sweden, the average Swede vastly overestimates the percentage of the population that is Muslim. "I will work on calmly, as prime minister, respecting voters and the Swedish electoral system", he said.

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.

Faced with growing support for the Sweden Democrats, the Social Democrats focused much of their campaign on issues such as immigration and crime, where the far-right controls the narrative. "The democratic revolution in Europe is moving forward!"

The Social Democrats and its allies have tried to appease anti-migrant sentiment in the country by urging more integration programs and resources for refugees in marginalized communities, and to help them access education.

That campaign could end up giving more voice to eurosceptic groups and thwart efforts at closer European Union integration.

CNN's Atika Shubert and journalist Linnéa Wannefors reported from Stockholm.

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