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Swedes Set for Knife-Edge Vote Amid Far-Right Surge

Swedes Set for Knife-Edge Vote Amid Far-Right SurgeSwedes Set for Knife-Edge Vote Amid Far-Right Surge

Sweden votes Sunday in one of its tensest legislative elections in decades. Immigration, along with Sweden’s poor handling of the refugee crisis, has led to a surge for the far right. Both the center-left and the center-right look to be short of a majority.

“I think we are facing an extremely complicated process to form a government, maybe the most complicated in modern times,” political scientist Niklas Bohlin at the Mid Sweden University said.

Since 2012, Sweden has accepted some 400,000 asylum seekers, with the bulk of them entering the Nordic country of 10 million during the 2015 migrant crisis. Although Sweden has since largely closed its borders and introduced tougher rules on migration, the poor integration of those already living in the country has played right into the hands of the far-right Sweden Democrats, who claim migrants are a threat to the country’s famed welfare model, France24 reported.

In a Friday survey conducted by polling institute Novus for national broadcaster SVT, the Sweden Democrats were predicted to get as much as 19.1% of the vote—well above the 12.9% the party scored in the last election in 2014.

Other pollsters have predicted that the party might even win as much as 20% or more—a result which would not only mark a historic gain for the anti-immigrant party with roots in the neo-Nazi movement but also make it the second biggest party in Sweden after the Social Democrats. Many of its supporters consist of former Social Democrats who feel disillusioned, as well as people in rural areas where industries and public services have been cut back.

  Waning Support for Social Democrats

In the past two elections, support for the Social Democrats, which have dominated Swedish politics since the 1930s, dropped to around 30%. According to pollsters, it is now on course to register one of its worst election results ever, dwindling down to somewhere in the mid-20s.

Since 2014, the Social Democrats have been leading a minority government with the Greens, and have a parliamentary ally in the Left Party.

The Novus poll predicted the center-left bloc led by the Social Democrats to win 39.5%, while the four-party center-right opposition (known as the “Alliance”, consisting of conservative Moderates, Liberals, Center and Christian Democrats) stood at around 38.5%.

If those predictions come true on Sunday, neither of the two blocs are set for a majority and would need to seek support elsewhere to pass legislation. To do so, the two blocs could be forced to try to cooperate with each other, or accommodate the Sweden Democrats in some ways.

  Quarter of Voters Undecided

The Sweden Democrats have repeatedly said they are willing to collaborate with either of the two blocs, as long as the party can shape the country’s immigration policy. So far, however, none of the parties have been willing to negotiate with them.

The Sweden Democrats have warned both the Social Democrats and the Moderates that they cannot go on seeing them “as a passing illness that has temporarily afflicted parliament.” The party entered parliament in 2010.

A Wednesday survey by national polling institute Sifo showed that more than a quarter of Sweden’s 7.5 million eligible voters still remain undecided.

In order to avoid a Sweden Democrats dependence scenario, however, the race for both blocks is now in full swing to compete with the far-right for voters.

Aside from immigration and integration, the issues of healthcare, climate change and education have been hot potatoes during the election campaign.

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