Sweden's ruling party hits election low as far right grows

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Voting in central Stockholm, student Katze Collmar, 32, said the campaign had been "really unpleasant", adding: "It feels like Sweden could take a step in this election that we won't be able to recover from very easily".

Ever since, however, the tide has turned again, and Europe's drift to the right, coupled with the ongoing demise of center-left parties, has continued.

Senior Social Democrats official Anders Ygeman conceded that the crisis had damaged his coalition's prospects.

Voters in Sweden made their views on immigration known Sunday in a general election that could strengthen a party with roots in the white supremacist movement if enough ballots were cast to protest an influx of newcomers to the historically heterogeneous nation.

While the result is a boost for the Sweden Democrats, the party fell short of pre-election predictions. His party emerged with the greatest share of the vote - 28.4 percent as the count neared completion - yet looking at holding fewer parliament seats than four years ago. Speculation about viable options includes a combination of the Social Democrats, the Centre Party and Liberal Party, with parliamentary support from the Greens and the Left Party.

Results from the vote will become clear later in the evening.

Sky's Michelle Clifford, who is reporting from the Sweden Democrats' election party, said: "They have done well, but the aspirations from the polls was that they would be the second largest, but that doesn't seem so".

JONATHAN NACKSTRAND via Getty Images Swedish Prime Minister Stefan Löfven addresses an election campaign rally attended by Spain's prime minister in Enkoping, Sweden, on September 5, 2018.

Although the Sweden Democrats did not achieve their lofty goal of becoming Sweden's biggest political force, they were victorious in another way: They effectively set the terms for debate during what was an unusually heated campaign, forcing other parties to address the country's immigration policies and move significantly to the right on them. But as the issue continued to gain relevance, the Sweden Democrats' position gained traction.

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So now the hard part: how to form a government.

Sweden's Prime Minister Stefan Lofven, leader of the Social Democratic Party, prepares to vote in Stockholm.

Sweden saw itself as a "humanitarian superpower" for years, but a rise in gang violence in immigrant-dominated, deprived city suburbs has also won support for the Sweden Democrats.

The potentially promising prospects of the far-right Sweden Democrats had many other Swedes anxious about an erosion of the humanitarian values that have always been a foundation of the Scandinavian country's identity.

Turnout in the election was reported at 84.4 percent, up from 83 percent in 2014.

At the Swedish Democrat's election eve rally Saturday, party leader Jimmie Akesson criticized Lofven's government for "prioritizing" the needs of new immigrants the ones of Swedish citizens.

As Nicholas Aylott and Niklas Bolin explained in their preview of the election for EUROPP, there have traditionally been two main blocs in Swedish politics (a left bloc and a right bloc). In a previous EUROPP article, Anders Hellström has assessed the importance of the Sweden Democrats for the 2018 election, and how their policies on immigration and crime have influenced the other major Swedish parties. The only possible way to form a successful governing coalition, therefore, would be for the parties to secure support from their ideological opponents. "The other parties can't ignore them any more", he said.

Rather than copying the far-right's emotional appeals toward identity and its criticism of the state, mainstream parties should offer voters fresh alternatives, Berman said.

Responding to the call, Mr Lofven said he would continue to "calmly work" in his role over the next two weeks (when parliament opens), but acknowledged the election "should be the funeral for bloc politics".

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