Sweden goes to the polls with the far right in an unprecedented position of strength
Eva Deschamps / September 11, 2022
A new European country with a government supported by the far right, or a third term for the left? Sweden is voting on Sunday after a campaign with maximum suspense and a new scenario, dominated by crime and inflation.
Never before had the traditional Swedish right-wing considered governing with the direct or indirect support of the Sweden Democrats (SD).
According to the polls, the nationalist and anti-immigration party is on its way to taking an unprecedented second place, and becoming the leading party in a new right-wing bloc.
The outgoing Prime Minister, Social Democrat Magdalena Andersson, hopes to stay in power with a "red-green" coalition, for a third four-year term on the left.
The campaign has been dominated by themes that could favour the right-wing opposition: crime and deadly gang settlements, soaring fuel and electricity prices, problems of immigrant integration…
But the solid popularity of Ms. Andersson, whose higher approval rating exceeds that of her conservative rival Ulf Kristersson, and the scarecrow of the far right for centrist voters argue in favour of the left.
All five polling organizations give a very slight lead to the red-green camp in their latest salvos, but all are within the margin of error and the numbers have been ultra-tight for two weeks.
The left-wing bloc led by the Social Democrats - the largest party in Sweden since the 1930s - with the expected support of the Greens, the Left Party and the Centre Party, is credited with between 49.6% and 51.6%.
The total of the right-wing parties - SD, the Moderate Party (conservative), the Christian Democratic Party and the Liberal Party - is between 47.6% and 49.4%.
It's a very, very close race, said Prime Minister Andersson on the last day of the campaign on Saturday.
Of course I am worried about a government that is completely dependent on the Sweden Democrats as the first party in government or the first supporter [...] It would be a different Sweden that we would have for four years.
The last two weeks of campaigning have seen the SDs, led for the fifth consecutive election by their leader Jimmie Åkesson, overtake the Moderates in the polls, around 19-21%, above their 2018 record of 17.5%.
Led for the second time by their leader Ulf Kristersson, the Moderates themselves have lost ground around 16-18% in the latest opinion polls.
The post of Prime Minister in Sweden traditionally goes to the first party in the winning alliance, but the traditional right-wing parties are hostile to having SD ministers, let alone letting them hold the post of head of government.
On the left, too, the exact shape of a future executive that emerges from the polls remains fraught with uncertainty: the Left party is hostile to seeing the Center party exert too much influence, and vice versa.
But according to political scientists, a political crisis similar to the one that followed the 2018 elections - four months to form a government - is unlikely, as the camps this time are better delineated.
A right-wing victory supported by the far right would usher in a new political era for Sweden, which is due to take over the rotating presidency of the European Union on January 1 and finalize its historic bid for NATO membership.
A new victory for the left would invalidate the strategy of a rapprochement between the right and the SDs, both of whom would remain powerless in opposition.
A total of 349 seats are at stake in the proportional representation system, where only parties with more than 4 per cent of the vote get seats. To be nominated, a prime minister must not have 175 or more votes against him or her, but an absolute majority of votes in favour is not required.