In Sweden, the press had predicted elections worthy of a thriller. It has not been denied. At the end of election night on Sunday, the country fell asleep without knowing the outcome of the legislative elections. And on Monday morning, the right-wing bloc, including the extreme right, came out on top: 175 seats against 174 for the left-wing bloc, led by the outgoing Social Democratic Prime Minister, Magdalena Andersson. However, no one dares to claim victory.
After four years plagued by political instability in Parliament, the small gap between right and left augurs, once again, of a flimsy majority. “We are heading again towards a difficult mandate”, predicts the national daily Dagens Nyheter.
Magdalena Andersson’s rival, the leader of the conservative Moderates party Ulf Kristersson, therefore played the card of caution: “If we have the majority on our side, I am ready to do everything in my power to create a stable and effective government,” he announced to his supporters gathered in Stockholm on Sunday evening. For her part, the head of government temporized: “Swedish democracy must run its course, all votes must be counted and we will await the result.”
With 30.5%, his party, the Social Democrats, has a better score than four years ago. But the right having garnered a slight lead, the atmosphere, Sunday, was very floating in his campaign headquarters. Ulla, a 73-year-old psychologist wearing a Prime Minister’s badge, summed up the mood within her party:It’s tight, but there’s still hope.”
Because these results can still change. The gap in favor of the right is so narrow that it will be necessary to wait for the counting of the advance votes and the Swedes abroad, from Wednesday, to have the heart net.
Record results for the far right
There is nevertheless one certainty: the extreme right party, the Democrats of Sweden (SD), is the big winner of this election. Based on the counting of 95% of the polling stations, SD won 20.6% of the votes, becoming the second political party in the country – ahead of the Moderates (19.1%), the traditional opposition party – with an increase by three points compared to 2018. If the polls had made it possible to see it coming, it remains completely new. And if that were confirmed, it would be an earthquake.
The nationalist and anti-immigration party led by Jimmie Åkesson was ostracized by all Swedish parties until the 2018 elections. But for these legislative elections, the right-wing bloc has agreed to ally itself with SD and campaign with its support , believing that it was his only chance to return to power after eight years of social democratic government. An unprecedented cooperation that completes the transition of the Democrats of Sweden from pariahs to mainstream party.
“It would be a historic turning point. Not only would the Sweden Democrats be included in the right-wing majority, but they would also become its biggest party,” which would give them unprecedented political weight, explains Nicholas Aylott, professor of political science at the University of Södertörn.
“Neo-Nazi and Supremacist Roots”
SD’s political program notably promises to adopt the most restrictive immigration policy in the European Union, to expel criminals of foreign origin, to limit family reunification, or even to refuse asylum applications to “those who create the reasons for their asylum application after leaving their country of origin”a provision that could notably target LGBT people.
“I am appalled at the number of votes they seem to have garnered. It is a party with neo-Nazi and supremacist rootsexplains to Release Swedish Minister for European Affairs, Hans Dahlgren. The Prime Minister reiterated that we are ready to work and cooperate with all parties, across the political spectrum, except with the Democrats of Sweden. We will never take this path.”
Whatever the final results, the hardest part is yet to come. Negotiations have already started so that the winner of these elections can form a government capable of voting on its policy and its budget. However, deep differences undermine the ranks of the left (Social Democrats, Greens, Left Party, Center Party) as well as those of the right (Moderates, Christian Democrats, Liberals, Democrats of Sweden).
Long negotiations to be expected
On the left, the centrists do not want to see the Left Party (ex-Communist) enter the government. “They have fundamentally different ideas when it comes to the economy”, recalls political scientist Nicholas Aylott. And on the right, the Liberals categorically refuse to allow the Democrats of Sweden to enter government. What their leader, Jimmie Åkesson, has already demanded given their very good score.
The negotiations will therefore be sporting and could take weeks. The previous legislative elections in 2018 had triggered a political crisis in the Riksdag, the Swedish parliament. It had taken more than four months – exactly 134 days – for a government to come into being.
Such a paralysis seems unlikely this time, as the period is so delicate: the process of joining NATO has not been finalized, the country must take over the presidency of the European Union on January 1, and the Swedes are facing inflation and skyrocketing electricity prices. “The question is which parties will be in the government, and which will only support it, not take part in it. It may take some time, but probably not 134 days,” says Nicholas Aylott. “This time the parties have a clearer view of which prime minister they want, and under what conditions”he says.