Sweden faces weeks, if not months, of political uncertainty and complex coalition talks after neither of the country's two main blocs won a majority in yesterday's general election.
Several major parties lost support in favor of the right-wing Swedish Democrats (SD), who won 17.6 percent of the vote amid growing discontent with large-scale immigration.
Despite the progress of Swedish anti-immigrant Democrats, up from 12.9 percent in the last elections, all other parties remain firm in their refusal to govern with them.
Right-wing momentum: Sweden's Democratic Party leader Jimmie Akesson speaks to the media the day after his party won 17.6 percent in the general election
Young members and supporters of the anti-immigrant Swedish Democrats react to the results of the exit polls at their party polling station in Stockholm on Sunday evening
Celebrations: Sweden Democratic politicians and supporters celebrate Sunday night's results, which allowed them to increase their support from 12.9 percent to 17.6 percent.
With 143 against 144 seats in the Parliament of 379 seats, neither the center-right Alliance – formed by the moderates, the Center Party, the Liberal Party and the Christian Democrats – nor a center-left coalition: the Social Democrats, the Greens and the Left Party: has the mandate to govern.
SD leader Jimmie Åkesson, who has tried to distance the party from its neo-Nazi origins, said this afternoon that he has sent formal invitations to moderates and Christian Democrats to discuss the new Swedish government.
Both parties confirmed receiving the invitation and told the Swedish press that, of course, they rejected it.
The official count will not end until Wednesday, as the votes of 165,000 expatriates are still being counted, but regardless of the final balance, Sweden has remained in limbo.
The center-left party Social Democrats, which has been ruling alongside the Greens, remained the largest party, but fell to a record low of 28.4 percent of the vote, its worst since 1908.
Supporters attend the night party of the Swedish democrats in Stockholm on Sunday
Members of Sweden Democrats celebrate with drinks and balloons after an improved shared vote
The democratic deputy for Sweden, Paula Biehler, of 30 years, reacts to the figures of the exit poll that saw the anti-immigrant party increase its participation as of 2014, but they do not become the largest party
Jimmie Akesson, leader of Sweden's Democrats, who achieved a record 17.6 percent of the vote, during the evening party event at the Kristallen restaurant in Stockholm
Now what? Who will form the new Swedish government after the general elections of stagnation?
With the preliminary results that leave Sweden at a political standstill, the nation now faces weeks of uncertainty without a clear prime minister or a ruling coalition already made.
None of the "traditional" coalitions of the Swedish government has won enough votes in Sunday's general election to form a majority government.
After the preliminary results, the three center-left parties have 144 seats and the center-right Alianza coalition, which governed between 2006 and 2014, has 143 of the 379 total in the Swedish parliament.
In the past four years, the Social Democrats and the Greens have ruled in a minority government with the support of the Left Party, formerly known as the Communist Party, and experts say they should now formally include the left in a potential government to continue. with this makeup.
Not as big as he thinks: the leader of the Swedish Democratic Party, Jimmie Akesson, expected to win between 20 and 30 percent, but ended with 17.6 percent of the vote, representing a big gain in the last elections 2014 general
Any minority coalition government would be under constant threat from Sweden's Democrats, who won 62 seats in parliament. SD has made it clear that they are willing to block any attempt to pass legislation, such as the autumn budget bill, to get away with it.
If the final toll – officially announced the Friday following the end of Wednesday's count – consolidates the preliminary results, it could force new cross-block coalitions to break the deadlock, and all of Sweden's parliamentary parties are now preparing for weeks of negotiations.
So far, both current Prime Minister Stefan Lofven, whose Social Democrats won 28.4 percent, and Ulf Kristersson, whose moderates won 19.8 percent, have said they will seek a mandate to form a government.
These are some of the most likely scenarios:
THE ALLIANCE – Moderates, Liberals, Center, Christian Democrats
The Alliance has already made it clear that they hope to form a government, but they would need the support of SD to be able to vote through a budget. In exchange for this, SD would demand influence, which all parts of the Alliance (until now) flatly refuse.
It's time to talk: Alliance coalition party leaders Ebba Busch Thor (KD), Ulf Kristersson (M), Annie Loof (C) and Jan Bjorklund (L) can try to form a government
"This is a very uncertain situation," said David Ahlin, head of opinion at market research firm Ipsos.
"The most likely situation will be that the Alliance will form a coalition together and try to seek the support of the whole bloc."
THE LEFT – Social Democrats, greens, left party
While it is reluctant to form a government with the former Communist Party, this is the only opportunity Prime Minister Stefan Lofven's prime minister in a traditional center-left government. However, if SD joins the four parties of the Alliance and votes this coalition in parliament, it could not govern and would be on the board again.
THE GERMAN SOLUTION – Moderates and social democrats
I come in peace: Stefan Lofven has also said he aims to form a government
After months of talks, Angela Merkel united her conservative bloc with the German Social Democrats in a "grand coalition" of the bloc.
This is an unlikely scenario, however, "neither the Social Democrats nor the moderates want to govern together," according to political scientist Jenny Madestam.
However, "if we end up in a situation where re-election is the only option, it can be a solution," Madestam told Expressen.
In the last four years of the mandate, the Social Democrats and the moderates have signed 26 agreements to pass legislation, especially on immigration, energy and climate.
This is still a more likely solution than any coalition involving the right-wing Swedish democrats.
MEET IN THE MIDDLE – Social Democrats, Center, Liberals
According to reports, Prime Minister Löfven is interested in this solution, which would keep him as prime minister and lead a coalition government with 151 seats.
"If the red-green block is bigger, the Center and the Liberals have the key and not Jimmie Akesson," Gothenburg University political science professor Mikael Gilliam told Swedish public service radio.
However, this comes with an important warning: the Center and the Liberals are members of the Alliance and should break the promises of the election campaign to form a new coalition without the Christian Democrats and the moderates.
And infuriating former coalition partners before needing the support of a cross bloc to vote a budget through parliament can result in an overthrown government.
Preliminary results: the final count will not be known until Wednesday, but as of Monday morning, this is the result of the Swedish general election 2018
Another big winner of the 2018 poll was the Left Party, whose leader Jonas Sjostedt has been one of the most visible politicians on social networks during the election campaign.
The party increased its share by 2.2 percent, gaining 7.9 percent of the vote, showing an increase in the left and right fringes in Sweden.
The Left Party, which until 1990 was called "The Left Party, The Communists", had its best election since 2002, when it obtained 8.3 percent, and its third best electoral result since 1944.
While Sweden's Akesson Democrats did not meet the expected results of more than 20 percent, they increased their percentage of votes by almost five percent.
And in the southernmost county of Sweden, Scania, which connects Denmark and continental Europe through the Oresund Bridge, SD became the biggest party in 21 of the 33 municipalities.
With the country at a standstill, Akesson, whose party now has 62 seats in the Swedish Parliament, said at a party meeting last night: "We will gain great influence over what will happen in Sweden over the next weeks, months and years." # 39;
He said he was interested in cooperating with other parties and wanted to tell Ulf Kristersson, the leader of the second moderates, "how to govern the country."
However, Kristersson has ruled this out from the beginning. He said: "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 told his supporters on Sunday night that the alliance of four opposition parties in parliament "is clearly the largest and that the government should resign."
The current Prime Minister Lofven said he intended to remain in office despite the historically poor performance of his party.
He said of the coming weeks: & # 39; We have a moral responsibility. We must gather all the good forces. We will not cry, we will organize.
"It is up to the political parties to cooperate responsibly and create a strong government," he said.
Speaking after counting the votes, he said that "a party with roots in Nazism" would never "offer anything responsible, but hate."
Support from the far left: left-wing party leader Jonas Sjostedt celebrates after increasing his participation by 2.2 percent, gaining 7.9 percent of the vote, which is the best result of the party since 2002
Stefan Lofven, the social democratic leader, speaks after the results of the elections were announced
Ulf Kristersson, leader of the Moderate Party of Sweden, speaks at an election party at the Scandic Continental hotel in central Stockholm after the results were announced
Jimmie Akesson, leader of the Swedish Democrats speaking during the evening party election event at the Kristallen restaurant in Stockholm
European leaders are watching the outcome closely after a wave of right-wing populist successes across the continent since the refugee crisis brought on by conflicts in the Middle East and Africa.
The preliminary results on Monday morning were for the Social Democrats, the Greens and the Left Party bloc with 40.6 percent of the vote, while the opposition of the Alliance with 40.3 percent.
The 17.6 percent share of the SD was an increase of almost five percentage points since 2014, but well below the 25 percent highs predicted by some pre-election surveys.
Marine Le Pen, from France's extreme right-wing National Rally, formerly known as the National Front, praised the rise of the Swedish party and tweeted: "Another bad night for the European Union, the democratic revolution in Europe is advancing!
Prime Minister Stefan Lofven called the poll a "referendum on the future of the welfare state," but the influx of 400,000 asylum seekers since 2015 has polarized voters and defined elections.
SD argues that asylum seekers threaten Swedish culture and put pressure on the country's generous welfare state. They have promised to end dual citizenship for non-Nordic citizens.
Akesson, who voted in Stockholm on Sunday, said: "Everything indicates that we are going to have a good choice, I have said throughout the campaign that between 20 and 30 percent is a reasonable score for us and I think that is possible" .
While the election result of his party did not meet his expectations, Akesson's fervent anti-immigrant campaign still saw Sweden's Democrats gain significant gains.
Self-proclaimed nationalist, Akesson argues that multicultural values and customs prevent immigrants from assimilating into Swedish society.
Former Swedish Prime Minister Carl Bildt, in the center, in the Moderate Party's electoral party in Stockholm
The supporters of the moderates on the night of the elections since the party was going to get third in the polls
People react in the Social Democratic Party's election party in Stockholm on Sunday night
Who is the right-wing Swedish leader Jimmie Akesson?
Akesson has led the SD since 2005, guiding what was initially a marginal party in parliament for the first time in 2010 with 5.7 percent of the vote, rising to 13 percent in 2014.
Often dressed informally, with a cool head in debates and talented to deflect criticism, Akesson is seen as someone who speaks directly for his supporters.
In 2014, he admitted having a serious gambling problem, having spent 500,000 kronor (47,000 euros, $ 55,000) online.
SD leader Jimmie Akesson is photographed with his wife Louise Erixon
The politician, who has a son with his wife Louise Erixon, says he developed his nationalist streak at an early age.
In an interview in 2014, he recalled an incident in his childhood that made him "skeptical about immigration": some refugee children took him off his bicycle and called him a "bloody Swede".
Akesson is seen as a tireless worker and activist, pushing himself so hard in the 2014 elections that he suffered exhaustion. Doctors put him on sick leave for six months.
He has called Muslims "our biggest foreign threat since the Second World War" and said that immigrants must be completely assimilated into Swedish society to be considered Swedish.
Akesson has tried to sweep away the traces of the origins of the SD in the fascist movement & # 39; Bevara Sverige Svenskt & # 39; (& # 39; Keep Sweden Swedish & # 39;) and purge the party of the declared racists.
His transformation was described as & # 39; commercial boots for business suits & # 39; in the Washington Post.
Before the vote on Sunday, Prime Minister Lofven urged the Swedes not to vote for the "extremist and racist party" saying: "It's about decency, about a decent democracy.
Sweden welcomed more asylum-seekers per capita than any other European country in 2015, raising concerns about a welfare system that many voters already believe is in crisis.
The lengthening of queues for operations, the shortage of doctors and teachers and a police service that has not known how to deal with gang violence in the city center have shaken faith in the 'Swedish model & # 39; , based on the promise of integral well-being and social inclusion.
The leader of SD Akesson has promised to sink any government that refuses to give his opinion on politics, especially immigration.
Throughout the election campaign, several SD officials have made headlines when journalists have discovered abhorrent racist comments on social media, and more than a dozen candidates were expelled from the party in the last week of campaigning after their background in neo-Nazi movements. they were revealed
With a view to next year's European Parliament elections, Brussels politicians are closely watching the Swedish vote, worried that a nation with impeccable democratic credentials could join the growing chorus of Euroscepticism in the EU.
Sweden has flirted with populism before. New Democracy, founded by an aristocrat and record producer, won almost 7 percent of the vote in 1991, promising strict immigration policies, cheaper alcohol and free parking, only to leave parliament three years later.
"I am not a supporter of SD, but it is a problem for democracy if the leaders of the other party refuse to talk to a party that represents the opinions of so many people," said Josefine, a voter from Stockholm.
Therese, a voter from SD in Stockholm, said: "If you have the opportunity to move here, then you should try to live like us."
But Anna Berglund, a 28-year-old lawyer who voted for the Center Party at a polling station in Stockholm's posh Ostermalm neighborhood, said the growing support of SD was "bad news."
"I'm afraid we're becoming a society that is more hostile to foreigners."
The populist rise could weaken the Swedish krona in the short term, but analysts do not see any long-term effects on the markets after the elections.
Economic growth is strong, government coffers are well supplied and there is broad agreement on the promotion of economic policy, experts say.
According to Magnus Blomgren, a social scientist at the University of Umea, "the traditional parties have not responded to the feeling of discontent that exists.
"That discontent may not be directly related to unemployment or the economy, but simply a loss of faith in the political system, Sweden is not alone in this."