As expected, the centre-right Alliance has won the Swedish general election, but is short of an outright majority in the 349-seat unicameral Riksdag. Under the almost fully-proportional modified Sainte-Laguë electoral system, initial results show the Alliance, which comprises the Moderate, the Centre, the Liberal, and the Christian Democrat parties, as winning 172 seats. The Moderates' leader and incumbent Prime Minister Fredrik Reinfeldt therefore heads the first conservative government to be re-elected in Sweden since the 1930s. If the coalition holds, it will have a four-year term. The Social Democrats, who have governed for 65 of the last 78 years, have in Mona Sahlin their first leader never to have become Prime Minister. Ms Sahlin, on behalf of her own party as well as the Greens and the Left Party, conceded on the evening of the September 20 poll. As the Alliance had based its campaign on the evidence of a slow but definite economic recovery, the opposition failed to persuade voters to oust the ruling coalition. It seems now that the Greens will hold the balance of power. The Alliance agenda is relatively predictable and involves spending cuts and more privatisation, even though the national budget deficit is relatively small.

The election has, however, been dominated by the far-right Sweden Democrat Party, which has gone far beyond the threshold four per cent vote-share to win no fewer than 20 Riksdag seats. The party claims to have abandoned its skinhead past, but it has clearly attracted voters by combining near-xenophobic campaigns aimed at immigrants with brazen evocations of an idyllic — and fictitious — monocultural Swedish past. The success of this far-right group is further evidence of the strong and exploitable streak of racism and anti-Islamism in contemporary Europe. The rise of the far-right party with its pronounced anti-immigration bias is a shock for Swedish society, which takes pride in its tolerance. Its economy, one of the most successful in Europe, depends heavily on exports. Analysts even say Sweden needs more immigration, and believe that the country's exports will be at risk if it is perceived as xenophobic or racist. Clearly it is a tough road ahead for the new government, which must ensure that the advances made by the far-right do not imperil Sweden's traditional political stability and social cohesion. If the new Swedish government does not address the resulting cultural tensions, it could well provide the far-right with even more future successes.

Keywords: Swedish polls

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