Sweden’s Moderate Party leader Ulf Kristersson said on Wednesday he would begin work on forming a new government after Prime Minister Magdalena Andersson conceded her Social Democrats had lost the weekend’s general election.
The moderates, Sweden Democrats, Democrats and Liberals will win 176 of the centre-left’s 173 seats in the 349-seat parliament, according to the latest figures from the electoral authority.
A few votes still need to be counted, but the result is unlikely to change significantly.
“Now I will start working on putting together a new government that can get things done,” Kristersson said in a video on his Instagram account.
The election marks a milestone in Swedish politics with the anti-immigration Sweden Democrats, a deep-rooted party, on the verge of gaining influence in government policy.
The party’s success, which saw Kristersson’s moderates take second place in the country, has fueled fears that Sweden’s tolerant and inclusive politics are a thing of the past.
However, the line that Sweden’s ills – especially gang crime – are the result of decades of generous immigration policies has caught on with many voters.
Kristersson said he would build a government “for Sweden and all its citizens”.
“There is a lot of frustration in society, fear of violence, concern about the economy, the world is very uncertain and the political polarization has become too great even in Sweden,” he said. “So my message is that I want to unite, not divide.”
Although Kristersson’s party is smaller, Sweden Democrat leader Jimmie Akesson can’t get the broad right wing support he needs to oust the Social Democrats.
Kristersson is likely to try to form a government with the Christian Democrats and rely on parliamentary support from the Sweden Democrats and Liberals.
Prime Minister Andersson admitted defeat, but warned that many Swedes are worried about the Sweden Democrats’ election success.
“I see and share your concern,” he said.
The Sweden Democrats aim for Sweden to have the toughest immigration policy in the European Union, including legislation that allows asylum seekers to be denied asylum on religious or LGBTQ grounds.
The party wants to reduce economic benefits for immigrants and give more powers to the police, including in troubled areas, allowing them to search without specific suspicion of a crime.
The Sweden Democrats look set to win 20.6% of the vote, against the moderates’ 19.1%. The Social Democrats will be at 30.4%.
Commanding only a slim majority, Kristersson faces a number of challenges, and his party’s ranks are not small.
Forming an administration and agreeing on a budget will not be easy because the Liberals and Sweden Democrats refuse to serve together (or separately) in government and differ on many policies.
“Now Sweden will get an administration that is only one or two parliamentary seats away from a government crisis,” Andersson said.
He said his door was open to Kristersson if he wanted to rethink his alliance with the Sweden Democrats.
Also, Sweden is in the middle of a cost of living crisis and could be on the way to a recession next year.
Russia’s war in Ukraine has destabilized the Baltic region — Sweden’s backyard — and there is uncertainty as to whether Turkey will finally agree to Stockholm’s request to join NATO.
Measures to combat climate change and long-term energy policy must also be removed while filling holes in the welfare system exposed by the pandemic and funding the projected increase in defense spending.
The result is yet to be officially confirmed, probably by the weekend.