Proper-wing events win Swedish election; Prime Minister Magdalena Andersson resigns

Andersson became Sweden’s first female prime minister last year and spearheaded the country’s historic bid to join NATO following Russia’s attack on Ukraine.

Jessica Gow | AFP | Getty Images

Swedish Prime Minister Magdalena Andersson has conceded defeat in the country’s hard-fought elections, paving the way for the far-right Sweden Democrats and allied parties to attempt to form a government.

The centre-left Social Democrats, led by Andersson, received 30.3% of the vote, confirming their position as the country’s largest party with almost all the votes counted.

However, the left-leaning parties – the Social Democrats and three others – failed to secure a majority in Sweden’s 349-seat parliament.

Instead, it looks like a right-wing group of parties led by Ulf Kristersson’s centre-right moderates have won a narrow majority of the seats and will make the first attempt to form a government.

This so-called “blue bloc” includes the anti-immigrant Sweden Democrats. The party, once shunned by the political establishment, recorded its best-ever election result with 20.5% of the vote.

It marks a historic turning point in Swedish politics.

The Sweden Democrats are now poised to gain influence over government policy. The Nationalist Party has championed law-and-order issues following a rise in gun violence, promising longer prison sentences and reducing immigration.

Sweden, a Scandinavian country of around 10.5 million people, has a reputation for being one of the most progressive countries in Europe and is consistently ranked among the happiest nations in the world.

Andersson worried for years to come

At a press conference on Wednesday, Andersson announced her intention to resign, saying the right-wing bloc has a seat or two advantage. “It’s a thin majority, but it’s a majority.”

“Most opinion polls told us it was going to be a close race in the election, so I wasn’t surprised it went that way rather than the other way around,” Andersson said. “I knew that could happen, but of course I’m worried about how things will develop in the next few years.”

Andersson became Sweden’s first female prime minister last year and spearheaded the country’s historic bid to join NATO following Russia’s attack on Ukraine.

She criticizes the rising popularity of the Sweden Democrats and warns that such a party in government could have a major impact on the tone of political debate.

Jimmie Akesson, leader of the Sweden Democrats, said his party is a “constructive and driving force” in rebuilding security in the country, Sky News reported. He added it was “time to put Sweden first”.

Sweden has a reputation for being one of the most progressive countries in Europe and is consistently ranked among the happiest nations in the world.

Jonathan Nackstrand | AFP | Getty Images

The Sweden Democrats emerged from the country’s neo-Nazi movement in the late 1980s and have since struggled to distance themselves from accusations of extremism. In 2010, the party was represented in the Reichstag for the first time.

A gradual increase in national support thereafter prompted the centre-right Moderate Party to forge a partnership with the Sweden Democrats in 2018. Kristersson’s moderates had previously ruled out negotiations with the right-wing party.

Kristersson said Wednesday he would begin forming a new government “that can get things done,” Reuters reported.

However, somewhat complicating the picture is the fact that the Liberals and Sweden Democrats – both part of the right-wing bloc – refuse to participate in government together.

“A very unstable coalition”

“I think that eventually there will be some form of Sweden Democrat representation in the government, but that will lead to a very unstable coalition,” Anamaria Dutceac Segesten, a lecturer in European studies at Lund University in Sweden, told CNBC by phone.

Even if that doesn’t happen through a ministerial position, Dutceac Segesten said the Sweden Democrats would likely influence the agenda of a future government led by Kristersson the Moderate.

“It’s always complicated,” she added. “In 2018 it took three months before we had a Swedish government. It wasn’t until December that we actually had a proper coalition, and it was an unstable coalition – one that had two votes of no confidence and changed prime ministers.”

Dutceac Segesten said a shaky start for the previous government is likely a sign that a new government is about to be formed.

Jimmie Akesson, leader of the Sweden Democrats, reportedly said his party is a “constructive and driving force” in rebuilding security in the country.

Jonathan Nackstrand | AFP | Getty Images

Prianthi Roy, an analyst at the Economist Intelligence Unit, a research and consultancy firm, told CNBC that the most likely outcome of the election is a centre-right government led by the Moderates in coalition with the Christian Democrats and the Liberals.

“The Sweden Democrats, now the second largest party in parliament, are likely to remain outside government but support the coalition in parliament in exchange for political concessions, including tougher asylum rules,” Roy said via email.

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