Published: Thu, September 13, 2018
World | By Camille Rivera

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

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

It received a little more than one in six votes, or 17.6 per cent. In Strangnas, an hour west of Stockholm, Lofven's main challenger, Moderates leader Ulf Kristersson, handed out campaign leaflets in his hometown on voting day.

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.

The party, rooted in a neo-Nazi movement, has worked to soften its image, and has played a role in breaking down longstanding taboos on what Swedes could say openly about immigration and integration without being shunned as racists.

The Sweden Democrats' success follows a surge in popularity for other far-right parties in Europe amid growing anxiety over national identity and the effects of globalization and fears over immigration following armed conflict in the Middle East and North Africa.

The ruling center-left Social Democrats and Greens and their Left Party allies in parliament got 41.0 percent of the vote and the Alliance 40.1 percent.

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After a campaign dominated by debates over immigration, the centre-left Social Democratic Party emerged with the greatest share of the vote - 28.4 per cent as the count neared completion - yet looking at holding fewer parliament seats and having its mandate to govern questioned.

Around 18.5 per cent of Sweden's population of 10 million was born overseas, according to Statistics Sweden.

The party, described by Prime Minister Stefan Lofven as "racist", held 12.9% of the ballot in the previous election. "It's. about decency, about a decent democracy".

The Social Democrats have led a minority government with the Greens since 2014, with the informal support of the ex-communist Left Party to pass legislation.

Mattias, a Stockholm resident at an election night party in the city, said he was "extremely concerned" about the far right's steady climb since it entered parliament in 2006 with 5.7 per cent.

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He told AFP he was anxious about SD.

The composition of the next government may not be known for weeks.

Lengthy negotiations will be needed to build a majority, or at least a minority that won't be toppled by the opposite side. It was unlikely any single party would secure a majority of 175 seats. "We are the guarantee to oust the current government from power", he said. Sweden took in more asylum seekers per capita than any other country in Europe in 2015, magnifying worries about a welfare system that many voters already believe is in crisis.

"The problems in society that we warned of have grown bigger and worse and people agree with our view of reality", Sweden Democrats parliamentary group leader Mattias Karlsson told public broadcaster SVT.

"This party has increased and made the biggest gains. It's time to take responsibility and talk to the Sweden Democrats", he said.

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