Sweden faces a protracted period of political uncertainty after an election that left the two main parliamentary blocs tied but well short of a majority, and the far-right Sweden Democrats promising to wield “real influence” in parliament despite making more modest gains than many had predicted. The populist, anti-immigrant party won 17.6% of the vote, according to preliminary official results – well up on the 12.9% it scored in 2014, but far below the 25%-plus some polls had predicted earlier in the summer. It looked highly likely, however, to have a significant role in policymaking. The governing Social Democrats, led by prime minister Stefan Löfven, maintained their record of finishing first in every election since 1917, but saw their score fall to 28.4%, the lowest for a century, while the main centre-right opposition Moderate party also slipped to 19.8%.
On a broadly favourable night for the smaller parties, the ex-communist Left and the the centre-right Centre and Christian Democrat parties all advanced. Crucially for the centre-left’s chances of forming a government, the Green party scraped over the threshold for parliamentary representation with 4.4%.
But the new government, which could now take weeks to form, will need either cross-bloc alliances between centre-right and centre-left parties, or an accommodation with the Sweden Democrats – long shunned by all other parties because of their extremist roots – to pass legislation, potentially giving the populists a say in policy.