Sweden votes in election amid heated debate on immigration

Sweden votes in election amid heated debate on immigration

The centre-right Moderate Party is set to take to take third place with 17.7 per cent.

But the governing Social Democrats, led by prime minister Stefan Löfven, while maintaining their record of finishing first in every election since 1917, were projected to plunge to less than 26%, their worst score for over a century, and the main centre-right opposition Moderate party also slid badly, to about 18%. The Sweden Democrats' strong showing was echoed on the far-left by a pop for the ex-communist Left Party, which captured 7.9 percent of the vote, up 2.2 percentage points from the previous election in 2014.

It was unlikely any single party would secure a majority of the 175 seats in the Riksdagen, Sweden's parliament.

The four-party Alliance - made up of the conservative Moderates, Christian Democrats, Liberals and Center - rejected Lofven's invite, urging him to resign as it reiterated its determination to form its own government.

Jimmie Akesson, leader of the right-wing nationalist Sweden Democrats party, votes in the Swedish general election on September 9, 2018 at a polling station in Stockholm.

Sweden took in more asylum seekers per capita than any other country in Europe in 2015, magnifying worries about a welfare system that many voters already believe is in crisis.

The potential of a surge by the party had many Swedes anxious about an erosion of the humanitarian values that have always been a foundation of their country's identity.

Sweden's Prime Minister and leader of the Social Democrat party, Stefan Lofven, speaks at an election party at the Fargfabriken art hall in Stockholm.

Sweden Democrats leader Jimmie Akesson declared victory at a supporters' rally saying, "We will gain huge influence over what happens in Sweden during the coming weeks, months and years".

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Akesson hopes his party, which wants Sweden to leave the European Union and freeze immigration, can play a decisive role in negotiations over forming a government.

The Sweden Democrats, with roots in the neo-Nazi movement, have said the large number of asylum-seekers presents a threat to Swedish culture and claim they put a strain on the country's generous welfare state.

This may indicate that he is prepared to work with centrist or centre-right parties to stop the Sweden Democrats having the balance of power in parliament.

Mainstream politicians have so far ruled out cooperation with the Sweden Democrats.

Immigration has been a central issue of the campaign. "We need tight responsible immigration policies".

About 6300 candidates sought the four-year terms.

The center-right Moderates have become especially tough on immigration, echoing numerous positions of the Sweden Democrats.

Polls showed established parties losing some support, including the centre-left parties which earlier favoured open-door policies.

With neither Lofven's "red-green" bloc nor his own Alliance standing a chance of winning a majority, Kristersson has said Sweden needs "a strong cross-bloc cooperation to isolate the forces. pushing for Sweden to withdraw from worldwide cooperation". "Integration is one of the biggest questions for the future in Sweden".

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