Sweden’s anti-immigration party has made large gains in Sunday’s general election as establishment blocs appear deadlocked, partial results show.
With 80% of ballots counted, the nationalist Sweden Democrats (SD) have won about 18% of the vote, up from 12.9% in the previous election.
The governing centre-left coalition is marginally ahead of its centre-right Alliance rivals, with around 40% each.
Neither will win a majority, and both have pledged not to govern with the SD.
Outgoing Prime Minister Stefan Lofven heads a minority coalition government made up of his Social Democrats and the Green Party, and is supported in parliament by the Left Party.
Immigration has been a central issue of the campaign. The SD is seeking strong curbs on immigration. Mr Lofven has described it as “racist”.
Reacting to the early results, SD leader Jimmie Akesson told supporters: “We increase our seats in parliament and we see that we will gain huge influence over what happens in Sweden during the coming weeks, months and years.”
Sweden uses a system of proportional representation, under which each party is allocated a number of seats in each constituency that is broadly in line with its share of the vote.
Who are the Sweden Democrats?
The SD was linked for years to neo-Nazis and other far-right groups, only entering parliament in 2010.
It has been working to rebrand itself, changing its logo from a flaming torch (similar to the one used by the UK far-right National Front) to a blue-and-yellow daisy, the colours of the Swedish flag.
Traditionally appealing to working-class men, it wants to attract more women and higher-income voters.
Mr Akesson says there is zero tolerance towards racism in the party and several members have been expelled.
However, the party has still been embroiled in various racism scandals.
One municipal candidate shared a song on Facebook with the lyrics “Swedes are white and the country is ours”, according to a report in tabloid Aftonbladet.
What were the key issues?
Sweden’s economy is booming but many voters are concerned that housing, healthcare and welfare services have come under pressure from a wave of immigration during the 2015 migrant crisis.
That year Sweden took in a record 163,000 asylum seekers – the highest such intake in the EU, per head of population.
Sweden’s traditional parties have since hardened their tone to reflect concerns about integration.
Many voters are also concerned about violence. The SD links a rise in shootings to increased immigration, although official figures show no correlation.
The SD also wants to leave the European Union and has proposed a “Swexit” referendum. However, the powerful centrist parties all oppose such a vote, so it is unlikely to go ahead.
Aside from immigration, climate change is an issue many Swedes care about – particularly after a long, hot summer and severe forest fires.
During the heatwave, around 25,000 hectares of forest burned in wildfires. Support for the Green party, which had been struggling after various internal scandals, has crept up across the country.
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