Sweden election: Result could take days as vote too close to call

Sweden’s election was too close to call on Sunday night, Prime Minister Magdalena Andersson said.

Exit polls at first predicted victory for the incumbent left-wing coalition, but results later suggested the right-wing bloc could narrowly win.

Immigration and crime were major issues in the campaign, and the far-right Sweden Democrats look set to become the second-largest party.

It could take until Wednesday for all votes to be counted.

Soon after polls closed, an early exit poll by Sweden’s public broadcaster suggested Ms Andersson’s coalition of four left-wing parties would narrowly win, with 49.8% of the vote compared to 49.2%.

But the left’s celebrations were perhaps premature, as later partial results put the right-wing group ahead, with a projected 176 of 349 seats in parliament after 94% of electoral districts were counted.

As the race is so close, the final result may have to wait until all votes, including postal and advance votes, are counted over the next few days.

Whatever the result, the far-right Sweden Democrats have made significant gains, appearing to become the country’s second-largest party behind the Social Democrats.

However, its leader, Jimmie Akesson, is unlikely to become prime minister even if the right-wing bloc wins the largest number of seats. Instead, Moderate Party leader Ulf Kristersson is likely to take that role, with the Sweden Democrats hoping to become part of his government.

Neck-and-neck, down-to-the wire, on a knife-edge. These are the descriptions the Swedish media has been using for weeks to describe the tight race between the country’s left and right political blocs during a heated and often ugly election campaign.

The first exit poll suggested there could be a different story, with a small majority for the left. But the right gained ground as results trickled in and soon the too-close-to-call narrative was back.

The press room above the Social Democrats’ election party emptied out – despite aromatic baskets of Nordic pastries being laid out as late-night snacks – with many journalists calling it a night.

Whether there ends up being a new right-wing government or not, what is clear is the nationalist Sweden Democrats have made a big impact.

Not just in wooing voters from all sides of the spectrum, but influencing politics more generally, with integration and crime overtaking huge global issues including the cost of living, energy and the climate crisis.