Twelve years ago, the Sweden Democrats achieved their first important victory when they entered the Swedish parliament with 5.7 percent. At that time, the right-wing populists were a small party that didn't even want to touch other parties with pliers. The reason: The Sweden Democrats have their origins in the right-wing extremist, neo-Nazi milieu.
Twelve years later, the right-wing populists and their party leader Jimmie Åkesson achieved a new stunt: the party with the blue and yellow flower logo achieved more than 20 percent, putting it in second place behind the Social Democrats. The best result so far. And a result with an announcement.
While the Sweden Democrats are happy, the other parties are still worried. Because it is a very tight head-to-head race, in which the winner is far from certain.
Shortly after the polling stations closed, the first exit polls showed a majority for the red-green bloc of the governing Social Democrats, Greens, Center Party and Left Party. But now the right-wing camp is a step ahead.
After counting around 95 percent of the electoral districts, the right-wing camp – consisting of Liberals, Conservatives, Christian Democrats and Sweden Democrats – received 49.7 percent of the votes and thus 175 of the 349 seats in Parliament. The left-wing alliance, led by Prime Minister Magdalena Andersson, now has 48.8 percent – and 174 seats.
Due to this near-tie, the electoral commission does not expect the final result until Wednesday, when all preliminary votes and votes from abroad have been counted. But it could also come on Thursday, reports the Swedish television station SVT.
Andersson, whose Social Democrats remain the strongest party in Parliament with over 30 percent, called on citizens to "be patient" and "let democracy take its course". "We won't have a final result today," she stressed.
Opposition leader Ulf Kristersson also pointed out that the outcome was still open, but had already declared his willingness to "form a new and strong government".
But that could prove difficult. Before the election, the right-wing camp made up of Kristersson's moderates, Christian Democrats and liberals broke the taboo against cooperating with the far-right Sweden Democrats by entering into an alliance. But even before a final election result is known, a right-wing government majority is in danger of crumbling.
But that's where it gets difficult. Because the Liberals are against a government with Sweden Democrats. "The Liberals will not let the Sweden Democrats into government," Liberal Karin Karlsbro said on Swedish radio station P1 on Monday morning. Very protracted and difficult government negotiations are imminent.
Either way, the Sweden Democrats are the winner of the election. Not only because of the good result, but also because nothing works without them.
Should the right-wing nationals come into government, they would be the larger governing party and have a strong influence on the work. If they don't go into a right-wing government, it would be dependent on the support of the Sweden Democrats. Even so, the right-wing populists would have a great influence. And with a social democratic government, the Sweden Democrats, as the largest opposition party, would be a huge asset in parliament.
The fact that this party made it this far at all was due to its core issues, which determined the election campaign: immigration, problems with integration, crime. In its approximately 30-year history, the program has mainly revolved around immigration, above all "non-European immigration". It has been named as the alleged cause of many problem areas: work, pensions, education, crime.
Especially the latter is a huge problem in Sweden. At least one person is killed every week in the Scandinavian country. If you put that in relation to the population (more than ten million), Sweden is the front runner in Europe. Most violent crimes are about drugs or revenge.
It is precisely on this issue that the Sweden Democrats want to change a lot. They want more investment in the judiciary. At least 20 billion Swedish kronor, more than 1.8 billion euros, the equivalent. This point is an "ultimate requirement" for government participation, Åkesson said before the election.
The Sweden Democrats could also demand further tightening of immigration, right down to zero immigration, says Jonas Hinnfors, professor of political science at the University of Gothenburg. According to him, the right-wing nationalists would not stop there. A strong influence of the Sweden Democrats would also have consequences for the media, public service broadcasting and culture in the broadest sense.
"We should not underestimate their long-term views, which are moving towards nationalism. On cultural issues, they will push the other parties ahead of them. But how much, it's difficult to say."
Sources: SVT, "Aftonbladet", Sveriges Radio, Valmyndigheten, AFP news agency