Sweden heads to a parliament hung after the elections on Sunday that saw support grow for Sweden's Democratic nationalists, as one of Europe's most liberal nations turned amid fears over immigration.
Dr. Ben Wellings, professor of politics and international relations at Monash University, told SBS News that the result was "part of an emerging image." [in Europe] where support for radical right-wing parties is dragging up. "
Dr. Wellings said that the success of Sweden's Democrats could be linked to an influx of 163,000 asylum seekers in 2015, the largest amount in Europe relative to the country's 10 million population.
The move has polarized voters and fractured the long-standing political consensus.
Given this backdrop, Dr. Wellings said that he was actually surprised that The Swedish Democrats did not capture even more of the votes.
"This vote forces us to reconsider some of the assumptions we have made about European social democracies and really consider the vulnerability of these liberal and socially democratic models to populist criticism."
Dr Wellings He said that the center-left has "a real problem in their hands when articulating a vision of European society in ways that are not vulnerable to criticism about migration, diversity and the collapse of common values."
And although the exact result remains uncertain, he said the only certainty was that Sweden's migration policies will now be re-evaluated.
A hung parliament?
As almost all districts reported, the Social Democrats and Greens and the parliamentary allies of the left-of-center-left party had 40.6 percent of the votes, while the opposition center-right Alliance was at 40.3 percent. hundred.
That gave the 144 seats in the center-left parliament 349 seats against 142 for the Alliance, suggesting weeks of uncertainty before a viable government can be formed.
The Democrats of Sweden, a party with roots in the white supremacy band, won 17.6 percent and 63 seats, compared to 12.9 percent and 49 seats in the last four years of elections, the biggest achievement of any party in the Swedish parliament, the Riksdag.
The results largely coincided with conventional opinion polls followed by Reuters in the run-up to the elections, but well below some online polls that had predicted that Sweden's Democrats could become the biggest party.
While the results also failed to meet the predictions of leader Jimmie Akesson of 20 percent or more of the votes, he said at a party rally that he was, nevertheless, the winner of the election.
"We will have a great influence on what will happen in Sweden in the coming weeks, months and years," Akesson told his party colleagues.
Akesson hopes that his party, which wants Sweden to leave the European Union and freeze immigration, can play a decisive role in the negotiations to form a government.
He called on Ulf Kristersson, the center-right candidate of the Alliance for Prime Minister, to choose between seeking the support of Swedish Democrats for an Alliance government or accepting another four years of Social Democratic Prime Minister Stefan Lofven.
Kristersson called Lofven to resign, but rejected Akesson.
"We have been completely clear throughout the election, the Alliance will not govern or discuss how to form a government with the Democrats of Sweden," he said.
Sweden's Democrats, rejected by all other parties since entering parliament in 2010, have vowed to sink any Cabinet that refuses to give them a voice in politics, particularly on immigration matters.
Lofven said he will not resign and called for cooperation between parties to resolve the political impasse.
"There is no side with a majority, so it is natural to work through political division to be able to govern Sweden," Lofven said.
Le Pen praises the rise of Democrats in Sweden
Marine Le Pen, of the right-wing Front National of France, praised the projected increase of the Swedish Democrats, tweeting: "Still another bad night ahead for the European Union, the democratic revolution in Europe is moving forward!"
The elections will add to concerns in Brussels when the European Union enters the campaign mode before the European Parliament elections in May, which could give more voice to Eurosceptic groups and thwart efforts for closer EU integration .
The record levels of asylum seekers in 2015 magnified concerns about a welfare system in Sweden that many voters already believe is in crisis, despite the fact that the number of refugees has fallen sharply ever since.
The prolongation of queues for critical surgery, the shortage of doctors and teachers and the failures of the police to deal with the violence of gangs in the city center have shaken faith in the "Swedish model", based on the promise of integral well-being and social inclusion.
Lofven urged the Swedes not to vote for what he called a "racist party" when he cast his vote on Sunday.
"It's … about decency, about a decent democracy, and the Social Democrats and a government headed by the Social Democrats are a guarantee not to allow the extreme democratic party of Sweden, the racist party, to influence the government."
Akesson had labeled the vote as a choice between immigration and welfare in a campaign that was unusually antagonistic.
When voting in downtown Stockholm, student Katze Collmar, 32, said the campaign had been "really unpleasant."
"It seems that Sweden could take a step in this election from which we can not recover very easily."
Lofven could remain in power unless the Alliance accepts some kind of support from Sweden's Democrats, at a probable cost that populists have more say over immigration policy.
But it would need to overcome decades of acrimony between the two blocs and obtain the support of the center-right parties, something they have ruled out.
Mattias, a Stockholm resident at a nighttime election party in the city, said he was "extremely worried" about the steady rise of the far right.
"The choice is between potential democracy and potential fascism," he told AFP.
Swedish far-right Democratic leader expects a good election result
& # 39; Hostile to foreigners & # 39;
Anna Berglund, a 28-year-old lawyer who voted in favor of the small Fiesta del Centro at an electoral college in the luxury Ostermalm district of Stockholm, agreed.
"I'm afraid we're becoming a society that is more hostile to foreigners."
The head of the Alliance of four parties (conservative moderates, the Center, Liberals and Christian Democrats), Ulf Kristersson, told AFP on the day of the vote that his Alliance was the only option for change.
"We are the guarantee to expel the current government from power," he said.
Given that neither Lofven's "red-green" bloc nor his own Alliance have a chance to win a majority, Kristersson has said that Sweden needs "strong cross-bloc cooperation to isolate forces … pushing for Sweden to withdraw of international cooperation. "
It's time to talk to the democrats of Sweden & # 39;
The final results of the election were delivered Sunday night, but the composition of the next government may not be known for weeks.
Long negotiations will be necessary to build a majority, or at least a minority that will not be overthrown on the opposite side.
The opposition intends to overthrow Lofven, with some moderates willing to go so far as to end the pariah status of the Swedish Democrats and open negotiations with them.
That could be fatal for the Alliance, with the Liberal and Center parties repeatedly discarding an agreement with the extreme right.
None of the seven parties has been willing to negotiate with Sweden's Democrats, who first entered parliament in 2006 with 5.7 percent of the vote.
"The problems in society that we have noticed have grown and worsened and people are in agreement with our vision of reality," Swedish parliamentary group leader Mattias Karlsson told SVT.
"When the same party increases again and again, and the other parties stay still, then you have to listen to that part of the population that is voting for this party, it's time to take responsibility and talk to the Democrats of Sweden." , He said. .
In an interview with the AFP during the campaign, Akesson stressed that he would "establish his terms" after the elections, and cited immigration policy, the fight against crime and medical care as a priority.