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March 25, 2023

Swedish centre right wins vote, loses majority

Anti-immigrant party enters parliament for first time.

STOCKHOLM – Sweden’s ruling centre-right faced the prospect on Monday of forming a minority government after losing its majority because of a surge in support for an anti-immigrant party. Despite warnings of market jitters if there was no clear win for either main bloc, investors took the result in their stride, focusing on the fact that Prime Minister Fredrik Reinfeldt would remain in power, and on sound growth and public finances.

The anti-immigrant Sweden Democrats, which won their first parliamentary seats in the traditionally tolerant Nordic country and hold the balance of power, said other parties would now have to reckon with them. But both Reinfeldt and the left have said they will refuse to work with the party, which says it wants a more responsible immigration policy but is called racist by opponents.

Reinfeldt, 45, had said he was prepared to lead a minority government if the result was inconclusive, but that he would prefer to secure a majority by luring the centre-left Green Party out of opposition. However, the initial Green Party reaction was cool.

From the preliminary count, Reinfeldt’s Alliance looked set to win 172 of parliament’s 349 seats, and the Social Democrat-led centre left 157 – among them 25 Greens. The Sweden Democrats were on 20. “If this outcome stands, we will have a scenario that most Swedish voters wanted to avoid – that we have a xenophobic party holding the balance of power,” said Ulf Bjereld, a political scientist at Gothenburg University. Swedish newspapers saw the election as a dramatic shift. “It is Monday morning and time for Swedes to find a new self-image,” wrote the daily Svenska Dagbladet. “A centre-right government without a majority, a wrecked Social Democracy, and a party with roots in far-right extremism holding the balance of power.”

Green Party Secretary Agneta Borjesson told Reuters her party had not been contacted yet by Reinfeldt’s Alliance: “The option is, first of all, that all other possibilities are exhausted and there is total chaos. Then one would have to sit down and have a discussion, but we are not even in the situation where we can sit down and have a discussion.”

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