Sweden headed for new political era as right wing nears win

Sweden’s coalition of right-wing parties looks set to secure a narrow victory in a general election that promises to rewrite the political map in the Nordic region’s biggest country.

The likely victory hinged on the rise of the anti-immigrant party, the Sweden Democrats, which saw the biggest gains of any of the parties on Sunday and now makes them the country’s second-largest political force.

“I am so proud, I am so happy about what we have done together,” said Sweden Democrat leader Jimmie Akesson, 43, after it became clear the party was heading for its best result ever.

The leader of the Sweden Democrats Jimmie Åkesson .Credit:AP

With 95 per cent of the 6,578 voting districts now counted, the opposition bloc led by Moderate leader Ulf Kristersson gained 175 mandates in the 349-seat parliament giving them a slender advantage over the ruling Social Democrats and its allies.

The gains by Swedish nationalists are emblematic of a broader shift in European politics. While French President Emmanuel Macron’s alliance remained the largest bloc in the April legislative election, the far-right National Rally fared much better than expected. Italy’s right-wing Brothers of Italy party, whose roots stretch back to Italy’s post-fascist movement, leads the right-wing coalition that looks poised for a landslide win in the September 25 elections, according to the latest opinion polls.

Moderate party leader Ulf Kristersson

Moderate party leader Ulf KristerssonCredit:AP

Amid a gang-fueled crime wave, the Sweden Democrats had campaigned on a promise to “make Sweden safe again,” by introducing longer prison sentences and reducing immigration to a minimum, as well as supporting the construction of new nuclear reactors. That clearly resonated with voters, who handed them an additional 11 new parliamentary seats, more than any other party.

A final tallly is scheduled for Wednesday, after which it is expected that Kristersson will push to form a new administration. “I’m ready to do everything I can to create a new, stable and actionable government for all of Sweden,” he said in a speech late on Sunday.

Kristersson, 58, represents the right-wing bloc’s chosen candidate for prime minister. A career politician, he has presided over the party’s shift and return to the right, which culminated in opening the door to cooperating with the Sweden Democrats. He has since received much criticism for reneging on his promises to never collaborate with the nationalist party, including one given during the 2018 election to a well known Swedish holocaust survivor.

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