The Social Democrats of Swedish Prime Minister Stefan Lofven seemed willing to take the lead in Sunday's general election, according to exit polls, and the far right made progress.
An exit poll of TV4 predicted that the Social Democrats would win 25.4 percent of the vote, while the public broadcaster SVT credited them with 26.2 percent, compared to 31 percent in the 2014 elections.
However, it remained uncertain whether Lofven, who heads one of the few leftist governments in Europe, could generate enough support in parliament to build a government.
The far-right Sweden Democrats (SD), who capitalized on voters' frustration over immigration after the country welcomed almost 400,000 asylum-seekers since 2012, were expected to make a profit, both polls showed. of urn.
The TV4 survey accredited Sweden's Democrats with 16.3 percent of the vote, while the SVT poll gave it 19.2 percent, compared to 12.9 percent in the elections four years ago.
The forecasts were, however, lower than expected by Sweden's Democratic leader, Jimmie Akesson. He said last Sunday that he expected to get between 20 and 30 percent of the vote.
However, Marine Le Pen of France's far-right Front National praised the Swedish Democrats' projected increase, tweeting: "There is still another bad night ahead for the European Union, the democratic revolution in Europe is moving forward!"
Lofven had called the elections a "referendum on the future of the welfare state," but Sweden's Democrats presented it as a vote on immigrants and their integration.
Sweden's Democrats, with roots in the neo-Nazi movement, have said that the large number of asylum seekers represents a threat to Swedish culture and say they put pressure on the country's generous welfare state.
About 18.5 percent of the Swedish population of 10 million was born abroad, according to Statistics Sweden.
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."
The Social Democrats, traditionally the largest party, have led a minority government with the Greens since 2014, with informal support from the former Communist Left Party to pass legislation in parliament.
If the exit polls of the Social Democrats were confirmed, it would be their worst performance in more than a century.
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 Center Party at a polling station in the Östermalm district of Stockholm, said the growing support of Sweden's Democrats was "bad news".
"I'm afraid we're becoming a society that is more hostile to foreigners."
The head of the Alliance of four parties (the conservative moderates, the Center, the Liberals and the Christian Democrats), Ulf Kristersson, told AFP on the day of the vote that he was concerned about the rise of Sweden's Democrats.
"I tried to demonstrate to the voters during the election campaign that if they really want a change, they have to vote … for our four parties, we are the guarantee to expel the current government from power," he said.
Aware that neither Lofven's "red-green" block nor his own Alliance have a chance to win a majority, Kristersson has said that Sweden needs "strong cross-bloc cooperation to isolate the forces … pushing for Sweden to withdraw from 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, and some moderates are willing to go so far as to end the status of SD pariahs and to enter into negotiations with them.
That could be fatal for the Alliance, with the Liberal and Center parties repeatedly rejecting an agreement with the Swedish Democrats.
None of the seven parties has been willing to negotiate with Sweden's Democrats, who entered parliament for the first time 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.