Swedish election: Nationalists 'make gains' in early exit polls

William Hahne vice chairman of the far-right

This is up from up from 12.9 percent and 49 seats in the 2014 election, the biggest gain by any party in Sweden's parliament, reports Reuters. But people increasingly are expressing such ideas more freely - adding to the support for the party. These results were predicted, as were the subsequent talks among the parties.

The Swedish general election has left the two main political blocs nearly tied, with the anti-immigration party making gains on its previous results.

Instead, Sunday's results effectively provided no clear victor and no convenient or simple narrative to explain the shifts underway in Swedish politics.

Neither the centre-right bloc or centre-left bloc in Sweden has taken a convincing victory on a positive night for the far-right Sweden Democrats, who are in a powerful position as the third largest party based on early results. The center-left 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.

It would have to either make policy concessions in exchange for the Sweden Democrats' backing or offer key positions on parliamentary committees that draft legislation. Moderate party secretary, Gunnar Strommer, said after the exit polls were published that he thinks "it's pretty clear" Lofven will need to resign.

Both the ruling center-left Social Democrats and the center-right Moderates had among their worst results in modern Swedish political history. They have never before received more than 13 percent of the vote in a Riksdag election, though their vote has been rising rapidly in recent years.

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"This government we have had now. they have prioritized, during these four years, asylum-seekers", Akesson said, giving an exhaustive list of things he says the government has failed to do for Swedish society because of migrants.

"Who do you want to negotiate with, Stefan Lofven or Jimmie Akesson?" he asked at an election night party on Sunday.

If the exit poll results carry over to the official count, the far right Sweden Democrats would be the second-largest party in parliament.

Support for the far right in Sweden mirrors similar trends in other European nations following the mass migration of refugees to the region in 2015, at the height of the Syrian war.

The record levels of asylum seekers in 2015 magnified worries about a welfare system that many voters already believe is in crisis, even though refugee numbers have fallen sharply since then. What is considered legitimate and what is considered illegitimate to say and do are relatively narrow in Sweden, particularly on some questions. And this wasn't just campaign speak.

"It's expected", Karin Kangas, 52, who voted for the Social Democrats, said of the confused parliamentary picture.

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Mainstream politicians have so far rebuffed him. It was formed in 2004 to counter decades of dominance by the Social Democrats.

The Sweden Democrats - led by Jimmie Akesson - has worked to soften its neo-Nazi image while helping to break down longstanding taboos on what Swedes could say openly about immigration and integration without being shunned as racists.

With almost all votes counted on Monday, the ruling center-left Social Democrats and Greens and their Left Party parliamentary ally had 40.6 percent of the vote, while the opposition center-right Alliance was on 40.3 percent.

If the Sweden Democrats win a quarter of the vote, it would be a sensation in a country described as a "humanitarian superpower" in 2014 by the prime minister of the time, the Moderate party's Fredrik Reinfeldt. They'll "have to face the facts", Andersson said.

But the traditional polls greatly underestimated support for the Sweden Democrats before the previous election, while the online surveys were far closer to the result.

He sparked an outcry during a televised debate on Friday when he said foreigners had more difficulty finding jobs "because they're not Swedes".

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