Eurosceptic party shakes red-green government in elections in Sweden

The parliamentary elections on Sunday in Sweden ended with a stalemate between the current red-green government coalition and the centre-right opposition Alliance of four parties. The minority government of Social Democrats and the Environment party lost together 5,2 percentage points and reached 40,6 % of the votes but is still slightly ahead of the Alliance which got 40,3 %. The difference between them is however only about 29 000 votes and fortunes can easily change after the count today of all pre-registered votes and votes cast abroad at embassies where many are known to vote for the leading opposition party, the Moderates.

Yesterday evening the Center Party lost one mandate because of an error in the reporting from one of the election districts. The difference between the two blocks is now two mandates (144 to 142). 175 mandates are required for majority in the Swedish parliament, Riksdagen. The final outcome will be announced by the central election committee only on Friday.

Following the populist Eurosceptic trend in Europe, the far-right anti-immigration party, the Sweden Democrats (SD), increased its share of the votes by 4,7 percentage points, more than any other party, and became the third largest party with 17.6 % of the votes.

Normally SD would become the tongue on the scale and courted by both blocks but neither of the blocks wants to include them because of their extremist views. However, they are likely to become dependent on the Sweden Democrats unless they manage to overcome their differences and establish some form of national unity government across the blocs.

In the election debate between the party leaders, SD leader Jimmie Åkesson accused the immigrants for not finding jobs in the labour market because they had not becomes Swedes. In fact, immigrants are well-educated or receive job training and contribute to the GDP of the country but the labour market is malfunctioning and even affected by structural racism.

The opposition interprets the results as a protest vote against the government and has called for Prime Minister Stefan Löfven to resign. It is referring to a vague rule in the work leading up to the Swedish constitution stating that in a situation after elections where the parliamentary support for the government is unclear the Prime Minister should resign.

Indeed the situation is unclear with the Environment Party barely passing the threshold of 4 % after losing 2,4 percentage points of the votes. The minority has been supported by the Leftist Party, the former Communist party, which increased its share of the votes by 2,2 percentage points and reached 7,9 %. Until now the Social Democrats have refused to include them in any government.

The Social Democrats claim that the above constitutional rule is a matter of interpretation and that it, as still being the biggest party with 28,4 % of the votes, should have the right to appoint the Prime Minister.

Sweden faces a number of problems in integrating its many immigrants, combatting gang criminality, hate crime and xenophobia, reducing social gaps, improving the quality of education and the health system, and investing in degrading infrastructure. Unless parties from the two blocks can agree to govern together, a period of political turmoil and the possibility of snap elections in Sweden can be expected.

The Brussels Times

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