Sweden headed toward gridlock after far-right party gains seats in parliamentary elections

Swedish Prime Minister Stefan Lofven
(Image credit: Claudio Bresciani/AFP/Getty Images)

Sweden's ruling center-left Social Democratic Party won the greatest share of votes in Sunday's parliamentary elections but just barely, winning about 28.4 percent. The Social Democrats' ruling coalition earned a combined 40.6 percent of the vote, for about 144 seats in the 349-seat Riksdag, or Parliament, while the center-right Alliance coalition, led by the Moderates, got 40.3 percent, for about 142 seats. The biggest gain was by the far-right, anti-immigrant Sweden Democrats, who got 17.6 percent of the votes, for about 63 seats, from 12.9 percent and 49 seats in the 2014 election.

Both the center-left and center-right coalitions reiterated after the vote that they won't form a government with the Sweden Democrats, but it's unclear how either bloc will put together a working majority. Moderates leader Ulk Kristersson called on Prime Minister Stefan Lofven (pictured) to resign, but Lofven refused Sunday, telling supporters that "all good forces" in Sweden "have a moral responsibility" to solve the country's problems together. "A party with roots in Nazism," he added, referring to the Sweden Democrats, would "never ever offer anything responsible, but hatred."

Sweden Democrats leader Jimmie Akesson declared victory, even though his party fell short of expectations. The party has made steady gains amid concerns over immigration — Sweden took in 163,000 asylum seekers in 2015, the most per capita of any European country — and like other resurgent far-right parties in Europe, The Associated Press says, "the Sweden Democrats worked to soften its neo-Nazi image in the lead-up to the election. The party symbol was switched from a flame thrower to a flower. Members known for making pro-Third Reich statements were pushed out."

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Peter Weber

Peter Weber is a senior editor at TheWeek.com, and has handled the editorial night shift since the website launched in 2008. A graduate of Northwestern University, Peter has worked at Facts on File and The New York Times Magazine. He speaks Spanish and Italian and plays bass and rhythm cello in an Austin rock band. Follow him on Twitter.