Sweden faces weeks of political limbo after election produces no clear winner

Ballots in Swedish election
Election workers tally votes at a polling station in Malmo, Sweden, on Sunday.
(Johan Nilsson / TT News Agency)

Sweden awoke Monday to the prospect of weeks of political uncertainty after neither of the country’s political blocs secured a clear governing majority in elections that saw a far-right party become the nation’s second-largest.

With more than 94% of the ballots counted, the center-right opposition, which includes the far-right Sweden Democrats, had a razor-thin edge over the governing Social Democrats and their allies in the center-left bloc headed by Prime Minister Magdalena Andersson, who has not resigned.

The result was so close that the election authority said a definitive outcome would not be known before Wednesday, when the uncounted votes, including those cast abroad, have been tallied.


With eight parties contending for seats, none will secure a majority of 175 in the 349-seat Riksdag, Sweden’s parliament, meaning that laws can only be passed with different parties working together

“It’s incredibly close. It’s basically a coin toss with 50-50 for both sides. So we don’t know at the moment,” said Zeth Isaksson, a sociologist at Stockholm University.

Votes from abroad are traditionally conservative ones, meaning that the still-uncounted ballots are unlikely to swing the momentum back to the left, Isaksson said.

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The biggest winner of the evening was the populist anti-immigration Sweden Democrats, which had a strong showing of nearly 21%, its best result ever. The party made gains on promises to crack down on shootings and other gang violence that has shaken a sense of security for many in Sweden.

The party has its roots in the white nationalist movement but years ago began expelling extremists. Despite its rebranding, voters long viewed it as unacceptable and other parties shunned it. But that has been changing, and its result in this election shows just how far it has come in gaining acceptance.


The Social Democrats, who have been in power in Sweden since 2014, remain the largest party with 30.5% of the vote. Andersson said it was obvious that the social democratic movement, which is based on ideals of creating an equal society and a strong welfare state, remains strong in Sweden.

The Sweden Democrats want to be part of a government, but this is unlikely to happen because there are parties in the center-right bloc that oppose it, Isaksson said.

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Still, the party will have “very strong leverage” and will push for some of its issues, such as tightening immigration laws. According to Isaksson, the Sweden Democrats may end up outside a government but as supporters of it.

Isaksson said a coalition of the center-right Moderates and the Social Democrats was unlikely.

The Moderates dropped to become Sweden’s third-largest party, winning 19% of the vote, based on the incomplete tally. However, party leader Ulf Kristersson appeared Monday to be the most likely candidate to be the next prime minister. He told his supporters on election night that he stood ready to try to create a stable and effective government.

However, Sweden is likely to face a lengthy process to form a government, as it did after the 2018 election.

Andersson, a 55-year-old economist, became Sweden’s first female prime minister less than a year ago and led Sweden’s historic bid to join NATO following Russia’s invasion of Ukraine in February.