The Swedish right-wing opposition is inches ahead of an electoral cliff

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  • Social Democratic Prime Minister Andersen faces right-wing opposition
  • The moderates’ Christensen is allied with the Sweden Democrats
  • Campaigns focus on crime, cost of living crisis
  • Polls closed at 1800 GMT, with preliminary results on Wednesday

STOCKHOLM, Sept 11 (Reuters) – Sweden’s far-right party has the narrowest lead to form a new government after eight years of Social Democratic rule after 90% of votes were counted after Sunday’s general election.

Early Monday morning, the moderates, Sweden Democrats, Christian Democrats and Liberals won 176 seats in the 349-seat parliament, while the center-left won 173 seats.

In further evidence of the shift to the right, the anti-immigration Sweden Democrats are poised to overtake the moderates to become Sweden’s second-largest party and the largest in opposition — a historic shift in a country that has long prided itself on tolerance and openness.

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Nevertheless, moderate leader Ulf Kristerson is likely to be the right-wing candidate for prime minister.

“We don’t know what the outcome will be,” Christerson told supporters. “But I am ready to do everything in my power to create a new, stable and vigorous government for the whole of Sweden and all its citizens.”

With overseas and some postal votes still not counted and the margin between the two constituencies slim, the results could still change. Social Democratic Prime Minister Magdalena Andersen did not concede defeat on election night, saying the results were too close.

The Election Commission said that the preliminary results will be released on Wednesday.

Christensen has said that he is seeking to form a government with the smaller Christian Democrats and Liberals, and that he is counting on the support of the Sweden Democrats in parliament. But it may be difficult for him to hold a party that is bigger than his own.

“Now it looks like there will be a change of power. Our ambition is to sit in government,” Sweden Democratic Party leader Jimmy Akesson told cheering supporters at a post-election party.

“Twelve years ago we came to parliament and I think we finally got 5.7%. Now we have 20.7%.”

Tough on crime

The campaign saw the parties grapple with gang crime after a steady rise in shootings unnerved voters, while rising inflation and an energy crisis following the invasion of Ukraine.

While law and order issues remain on the right, gathering economic clouds are seen lifting Prime Minister Anderson as households and businesses face sky-high electricity prices. read more

Andersson was finance minister for several years before becoming Sweden’s first female prime minister a year ago.

Kristerson presented himself as the only candidate who could unify the right and unseat him.

into the mainstream

When Christensen took over as leader of the moderates in 2017, the Sweden Democrats, an anti-immigration party with white supremacists among its founders, was shunned by both the right and the left. But Kristerson has gradually deepened cross-party ties since his 2018 election defeat and the Sweden Democrats are increasingly seen as part of the mainstream right. read more

Whether the Sweden Democrats have a say in government policy or join the cabinet has divided voters.

“I’m very afraid that a repressive, right-wing government will come,” Malin Eriksson, 53, a travel consultant, said earlier Sunday at a polling station in central Stockholm.

The Sweden Democrats’ strong result fits a pattern of victories by the anti-immigration right across Europe, where Italy is poised to elect a conservative bloc later this month including Giorgia Meloni’s Brothers of Italy (FdI) and Matteo Salvini’s League.

“I voted for a change in power,” said Jørgen Hellström, a small business owner who voted 47 near parliament. “Taxes need to come down a little bit, crime needs to be sorted out. The last eight years have gone in the wrong direction.”

Whichever team wins, negotiations to form a government will be long and difficult in a polarized and emotional political landscape.

If Anderson is to win a second term as prime minister, he will need support from the ideologically opposed Center Party and the Left and the Greens.

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Additional reporting by Janice Lysans, Isabella Ronca, Terje Solsvik and Anna Ringström; Editing by William McLean, Elaine Hartcastle, Catherine Evans, Diane Croft and Lincoln Feist

Our Standards: Thomson Reuters Trust Principles.

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