Tue, Sep 21, 2010 - Page 1 News List

Sweden’s ruling coalition loses lead as right surges

AFP , STOCKHOLM

Sweden’s ruling center-right coalition won the most votes, but fell short of a majority in the general election as the far-right entered parliament for the first time.

Swedish Prime Minister Fredrik Reinfeldt’s Alliance won 49.2 percent of votes and 172 seats in Sweden’s 349-seat legislature in Sunday’s vote, three short of a majority, according to a final ballot count.

The left-wing opposition coalition garnered 43.7 percent of the ballot and 157 seats, marking a crushing defeat for Social Democrat Mona Sahlin, 53.

“We have received broad support tonight,” Reinfeldt told a jubilant crowd in Stockholm, boasting that his Moderate party had seen its voter support double from 15 percent in 2002 to 30 percent on Sunday.

Yet, he acknowledged, “this is not the election result we had hoped for,” lamenting the anti-­immigrant far-right Sweden Democrats’ entry into parliament with 5.7 percent of the vote, and 20 seats in the house.

Observers have cautioned that the far-right party could play ­either kingmaker or spoiler, forcing ­Reinfeldt to seek new alliances or even make it so difficult to govern that snap polls are forced.

“I have been clear ... We will not cooperate with or be made dependent on the Sweden Democrats,” Reinfeldt, 45, said in his victory speech, adding that he would seek to shore up support from elsewhere.

The far-right was celebrating its historic entry in parliament.

“Now we are in the Riksdag! We are in!,” exulted Jimmie Aakesson, the 31-year-old leader of the Swedish far-right, as he addressed supporters at the party’s election headquarters.

He dismissed widespread fears his party would cause parliamentary chaos.

“We won’t cause problems. We will take responsibility. That is my promise to the Swedish people,” he said.

Aakesson recalled a tough election campaign, saying his party had been excluded from the public debate.

“We were exposed to censorship, we were exposed to a medieval boycott, they ... excluded us,” he said.

However, “today we have written political history,” he said.

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