The outcome of the general election in Sweden on September 9 did not come as a big surprise. In practice, not much changed since the last election, when the Sweden Democrats, an anti-immigrant party with roots in the white-nationalist movement, became the third largest party in the Riksdag.
Prior to this year’s election, there were fears that the Sweden Democrats would continue to grow sharply and perhaps even become the country’s largest party. But the polls from Sentio and YouGov that had predicted this proved to be wrong. The party did increase its vote share to 17.6% from 12.9% four years ago, but it fell short of expectations. The Social Democrats made a surprising pickup and dropped only to 28.4%. The Moderates came in as the second largest party, with 19.8% of the votes.
After the last election in 2014, the majority of the parties in the Riksdag made an agreement in order to isolate the Sweden Democrats. Only thanks to this agreement, the Social Democrats were able to govern together with the Green Party.
However, the Moderates and the other parties in the center/right Alliance had difficulties explaining why they allowed the Social Democrats to govern, even though there was a majority in the Riksdag to allow a more conservative policy. In this year’s election, the Social Democrats became even smaller.
On Sunday night, the party leader of the Moderates, Ulf Kristersson, made a statement that he expects Stefan Löfven to step down as prime minister. Löfven responded that he intends to stay on his post since it is not clear how Ulf Kristersson will be able to form a new government.
The center/right Alliance claims the right to govern. Although combined, the four different parties only received 40.3% of the votes. Together with the Sweden Democrats they received 57.9% of the votes, but they have promised not to govern or even negotiate with the Sweden Democrats.
The election results create a political dilemma. In order to become prime minister, Ulf Kristersson needs to be tolerated by the Riksdag. Since the Alliance does not want to negotiate with the Sweden Democrats, it is uncertain how he will be able to govern the country.
The Social Democrats off course wants to stay in power and have opened up for political negotiations with all parties in the Riksdag except the Sweden Democrats. The Alliance wants to form a new government without the Social Democrats.
Not all votes have been counted yet. Regardless of the result, it is obvious that the rise of the Sweden Democrats has changed the political landscape in Sweden. The voters have shifted to the right, which paradoxically makes it more difficult to form a center/right government.
Jonas Hellman is Head of Public Affairs at PRIME of Weber Shandwick in Stockholm, Sweden.