Swedish Prime Minister Magdalena Andersson announced on Wednesday that she would resign after an unprecedented right and far-right bloc narrowly won Sunday’s election.
Of the 349 seats in the Swedish parliament, the right-wing opposition would win 176, thanks in part to a surge of far-right Swedish Democrats (SD), with more than 99 percent of the districts counted. Andersson, party leader of the Social Democrats, noted at a press conference that it was a “narrow majority, but a majority nonetheless.
“So tomorrow I’m handing in my resignation as prime minister, and responsibility for the rest of the process goes to the speaker,” Andersson said.
Sunday’s elections were so close that tens of thousands of votes from abroad and the votes cast in advance had to be counted to validate the results.
‘Making Sweden great again’
Never before has a Swedish government relied on the support of the anti-immigration and nationalist SD, which became the big winners of the vote by more than three percentage points.
With 20.6 percent of the vote counted so far, the party emerged as Sweden’s second largest party, after the Social Democrats, who have dominated Swedish politics since the 1930s.
However, the post of Prime Minister will most likely go to Moderate Party leader Ulf Kristersson, as SD leader Jimmie Akesson is unable to unite all four parties to lead the government.
“I am now starting to form a new and strong government,” Kristersson said in a video posted on Facebook. Kristersson, a former gymnast, led a major turnaround for his party when he started exploratory talks with the Swedish Democrats in 2019 and then deepened their cooperation. Later the Christian Democrats followed, and to a lesser extent the Liberals.
At the same time, the thorny question remains whether the far-right would receive cabinet posts, which Akesson said was their “goal” at the end of Sunday. In a Facebook post on Wednesday, Akesson thanked “friends from Sweden” across the country. “Now the work begins to make Sweden great again,” the party leader said.
The Swedish Democrats emerged from neo-Nazi groups and the “Keep Sweden Swedish” movement in the early 1990s and entered parliament in 2010 with 5.7 percent of the vote.
Long shunned as “outcasts” on the political scene, the party has seen strong growth in each subsequent election as it worked to clean up its image. His tough stance on the number of shootings and gang integration set the tone in this year’s elections.
The slim majority also means that a right-wing government’s takeover would be very fragile, as the four parties are vehemently opposed to a number of issues, especially the Liberals and the Swedish Democrats. “This is a difficult parliamentary situation,” political scientist Mikael Gilljam of the University of Gothenburg told TBEN. “And then you have parties that don’t like each other, the Swedish Democrats and the Liberals” in the same right-wing bloc, he added.
In such a situation, a few disgruntled MPs could turn the balance of power. Behind the SD with 73 seats, 11 more than in the last elections in 2018, the moderates have 68 seats (-2), while the Christian Democrats have 19 (-3) and the Liberals 16 (-4).
On the left, the Social Democrats climbed to 107 seats (+7) thanks to gaining 30.4 percent of the vote, ahead of the left and center parties (24 seats each) and the Green Party (18).
Formally, the political transition process cannot begin until after Prime Minister Andersson’s resignation was announced on Thursday.
Then the chairman of the Riksdag, the Swedish parliament, can give Ulf Kristersson the task of forming a majority between the four parties, opening a period of negotiations. The election of the new head of government cannot take place before 27 September at the earliest, when parliament reopens.