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2022 SWEDISH ELECTION

SWEDISH ELECTION BLOG: Right bloc holds slim lead and party leader speeches

The right bloc held a slim lead but Sweden hadn't finished counting its votes. The Local's Swedish election blog looks back at how events unfolded on Sunday.

SWEDISH ELECTION BLOG: Right bloc holds slim lead and party leader speeches
A cardboard cutout of Moderate party leader Ulf Kristersson and his dog Winston. Photo: Fredrik Sandberg/TT

1:00 Speeches from Magdalena Andersson and Ulf Kristersson

Prime Minister Magdalena Andersson has now held her speech at her party’s election event. She began the speech on the topic of war in Ukraine.

“They are defending their democracy and freedom,” she said. “At the same time, Vladimir Putin is using Russian gas as a weapon aimed at Europe’s democracies.

“In this situation, Swedish men and women have stood in queues, taken their ballot papers, stood in election booths and made their decisions.”

“That makes me proud of our country, that’s how we defend our democracy.”

She, like the other party leaders speaking tonight, underlined the fact that there won’t be a final election result tonight.

“Even if the election result isn’t clear, I can confirm one thing already. The Social Democrats – we have had a good election! Support for us has increased and it’s clear that Swedish Social Democracy is strong.”

Moderate leader Ulf Kristersson held his speech just a few minutes’ walk away at the Moderates’ election event.

“The voters have now spoken, and we will first have a preliminary result on Wednesday,” Kristersson said as he came onto the stage at about quarter to one. 

“We’ve done all we can, you’ve done all we can, we’ve stood up for our politics,” he said. “I now stand ready to build a new and capable government for Sweden and all its citizens.” 

“I want to ask for patience. The result has to be secured.”

At the end of an election campaign which he said had at times been harsh and bitter, he reached out to Social Democrat leader Magdalena Andersson.

“I want to thank her for a good match. We have shown that we can find a common view, when it is required.”

He said that whoever ended up forming the next government, the two parties would need to work together in the autumn, when Sweden is hoping to enter Nato, and also when the country takes over Presidency of the European Union.

00:30 Right bloc appear to be in slim lead

The right-wing bloc is now 3 seats ahead of the left bloc. 59,000 votes ahead and SVT’s experts are now saying it will be hard for the left bloc to make up the difference.

As Emma said before, any result we get tonight is preliminary only. Votes from Swedish citizens abroad and early voting ballots that didn’t make it to the polling stations in time for Election Day get counted on Wednesday and it takes a week to complete the final count. In the last election, three seats changed between Election Day and the final count, and this one looks set to go down to the wire. So the parties on both sides will be wise not to celebrate too much.

00:25 Hello and party leader speeches

Hello from Becky! I’m based at the Social Democrats’ election event this evening, where the general feeling amongst party members and journalists seems to be “can this please be over soon?”

Party leaders from both sides have begun to hold their speeches, usually reserved for the point in the evening where it’s clear which side has won or lost. Neither of the prime ministerial candidates, Social Democrat Magdalena Andersson nor Moderate Ulf Kristersson, have yet held their speech, presumably as it’s hard to hold a victory or concession speech until you know if you’ve won or not.

The Liberals’ Johan Pehrson was in good spirits despite his party returning a worse result than four years ago, describing the new results as “a comeback”.

Centre Party leader Annie Lööf said the party should be “proud that we’ve stood up for what we believe in,” adding that the party “aren’t happy” about the Sweden Democrats gaining so much ground.

Green Party co-leaders Märta Stenevi and Per Bolund were in good spirits, saying that the party “has not just made a comeback, but has done even better”.

“We’ve improved,” Bolund said, “but at the same time it’s an extremely even situation in Swedish politics and no one knows yet how it will turn out. We will probably have to wait a few days for that result”.

Christian Democrat Leader Ebba Busch opened her speech by proclaiming that Sweden was “moving towards a change of power,” adding that “my belief is that the hope for change will win over the rhetoric of fear from the red-green bloc.”

She did however add that she doesn’t believe the final result will be clear before Wednesday, and that she was hoping for better results for her party than preliminary predictions.

“We are a big party today, for real!” exclaimed Sweden Democrat leader Jimmie Åkesson as he bounded onto stage to jubilant chants of ‘Jimmie Akersson tra-la-la-la-la!’.  He said it would not be clear if there would be a new government until early next week, but he said that if Ulf Kristersson became prime minister, his party would seek to be part of the government.  What is clear is that if there is a change in power, we will have a central position in the new government. Our ambition is to be part of the government,” he said.

Left Party leader Nooshi Dadgostar was the last of the leaders of the smaller parties to come out and meet her voters, taking to the stage just after midnight.

While she said she was still hoping for a red-green government, she admitted there was a “risk” of a right-wing government.

She blamed the Social Democrats’ decision to adopt some of the rhetoric of the populist right for the close result.

“If you have a debate in the election which right from the Social Democrats to the Sweden Democrats is about sending the signal that some people are worth less than others, this is what you end up with,” she said.

“It’s a failure for the whole establishment.”

She said that her party was now going to devote its energies to battling right-wing nationalism.

“From this day on, we’re going to rise up and organise against right-wing nationalism,” she declared. “You know how it is in Sweden. They are never going to be able to win!”

23:50 Bye from Emma, say hi to Becky

I’m handing over the reins of this blog to my colleague Becky Waterton, who will guide you through the rest of the evening as the rest of the votes keep trickling in. But if you’re a member of The Local, sign up for my Sweden Elects newsletter to get my election analysis in your email inbox tomorrow morning. And if you’re not a member, do consider joining us! Your support helps us cover Sweden’s news in English.

23:35 Happy or sad?

Paul O’Mahony reports from the Christian Democrats’ election night vigil:

The atmosphere was very subdued at the Christian Democrats’ election party until a moment ago when a graph popped up on the big screen showing the right bloc with the slimmest of leads. A few enthusiastic young supporters started chanting Ebba Busch’s name. Correctly reading the room, the DJ quickly slapped on Evighet by Carola, 5th in the 2006 Eurovision Song Contest and considered a bona fide banger by Swedish Christians Democrats everywhere.

But there’s a clear schism in the room: the young guns are buoyed by the right’s slender advantage while many of the older contingent are grim-faced and reflective. A score of 5.4% at the time of writing is a lot less than they were expecting.

But then the DJ plays Eloise, 7th in the Eurovision Song Contest 1993, and now even the oldies are rocking.

23:30 How election pledges would affect foreigners in Sweden

It’s easy at this point to get caught up in the excitement of the election race, with the result still too close to call. But I bet many readers also wonder how the election result will affect their lives in Sweden. Here’s The Local’s look at how the parties’ election pledges would affect foreign citizens living here.

I’ve linked to them elsewhere in this blog, but here’s how the election pledges made in the manifestos of in particular Sweden’s three largest parties (the centre-left Social Democrats, the conservative Moderates and the anti-immigration Sweden Democrats) would affect the lives of foreigners in Sweden.

23:15 Still too close to call

A reminder: any result we get tonight is preliminary only. Votes from Swedish citizens abroad and early voting ballots that didn’t make it to the polling stations in time for Election Day get counted on Wednesday and it takes a week to complete the final count. In the last election, three seats changed between Election Day and the final count, and this one looks set to go down to the wire. So the parties on both sides will be wise not to celebrate too much.

The right bloc is currently in the lead by one seat with about 1,500 districts left to declare.

23:10 ‘The Moderates have lost votes in both directions’

Richard Orange has spoken with Nicholas Aylott, associate professor in politics at Stockholm’s Södertörn University, about the preliminary results, which put the Moderates as Sweden’s third largest party, losing their second spot to the Sweden Democrats. When The Local asked him whether a loss would mean that it had been a mistake to seek the support of the far-right party, he said that it was not obvious that the Moderates had had many other options.

“It is not easy to predict the effect of any particular strategy by mainstream parties on the development of a party like the Sweden Democrats,” he said. “The received wisdom is that if other mainstream parties do try to mimic their message and try to cut off the supply of voters to them by sort of offering similar policies that might weaken them. And that does seem to be what happened in in Denmark.

“But the big danger in that is, of course, that if you move yourself closer to their position, if you sound friendlier towards them, then you legitimise them.

“And looking at the data on the exit poll this evening, it does look as if the Moderates have lost votes in both directions. They’ve lost votes from supporters who can’t stomach the closer association with the Sweden Democrats, but they’ve also lost other voters to the Sweden Democrats themselves, perhaps because having cosied up to them, they legitimise them, and thus made it a smaller step for voters to move from the Moderates to the Sweden Democrats.

“Having said all that, we should also think about what realistic alternative strategies there have been for the party’s leadership over the last few years. I’m not really clear that there was there was a serious, realistic alternative for the party leader.”

As for the Social Democrat strategy, Aylott agreed that they had run a very cautious campaign based wholly on the personality of their leader, Prime Minister Magdalena Andersson.

“The party has really put most of its eggs in it’s leaders basket. They’ve been talking about a presidential style of campaign and you can see why. They’ve made a big, a big bet on a relatively untested party leader and Prime Minister who hasn’t been in place for for more than 10 months or so, and who doesn’t really have that much history as the centre of an electoral campaign, or electoral politics in general, even parliamentary politics.”

“They placed a big a big bet on her, her personality and her leadership and that at the moment looks to have paid off.

“But as for the party’s manifesto, and its offer to voters, it was really very thin indeed, with very few concrete pledges. And even Magdalena Andersson herself prefers to talk about goals rather than promises.

“I think this reflects the ideological stagnation that has really occurred in the party certainly Stefan Löfven’s time as, as party leader and Prime Minister. The party seems to have lost interest in policy ideas.”

23:05 ‘We don’t disagree on fundamental issues’

James Savage has spoken with Paula Bieler Eriksson, a former MP for the Sweden Democrats. Note that he spoke with her just before the results changed in the favour of the right bloc, so the left side were still in the lead at this point. Here’s the interview:

What’s your reaction to the results so far?

Bieler Eriksson: “Right now I’m being a bit cautious about the Sweden Democrats’ figures – and indeed the figures overall. But generally I’m worried – it looks like there will be continued red-green rule for four more years. That’s something the country really doesn’t need, and in that case it’s not as important that the Sweden Democrats have gone up a lot, if we still have a bad government.

“On the other hand there are still a lot of issues in which the Social Democrats have changed their views, but Magdalena Andersson is very well aware that if she is to continue her success she will have to stick to her new, tougher line and the Moderates, the Christian Democrats and certainly the Sweden Democrats are going to put pressure on her.”

The Sweden Democrats now look likely to overtake the Moderates. What will the implications of this be in the event that the right-wing bloc turns out larger than the left-wing bloc?

Bieler Eriksson: “It’s a clear signal of what people want and it’s definitely a good negotiating position for the Sweden Democrats. It’s clear that our first priority is to sit in government, and the larger we are the higher our price will be if we don’t get to sit in government – all the parties on that side of politics understand this. If the Liberals continue insisting on having a veto it will mean they’ll have to agree to quite a lot of Sweden Democrat policy in exchange.”

If the Sweden Democrats are bigger than the Moderates, can any government supported by them be stable if there are no Sweden Democrat ministers in it?

Bieler Eriksson: “That depends what we get in return. It’s a question for negotiation. But regardless of whether SD is part of the government or not it’s clear that the possibilities for cooperation in the right-wing bloc, or the blue-yellow bloc or whatever you want to call it, are much greater than on the other side, which right from the beginning was a strange compromise where all they agreed on was that they wanted to block the Sweden Democrats from influence. They are a long way apart from each other in other questions. On the right there are questions where the parties disagree, but there isn’t the same chasm as there is between the parties on the other side, and we don’t disagree on the really fundamental issues like they do on the other side.”

22:54 Right wing in the lead

With more than half of the districts counted, public broadcaster SVT reports that the right bloc has now overtaken the left bloc, with 176 to 173 seats if the results hold. We can probably expect these numbers to keep changing a little bit as the Election Authority keeps counting the votes. The Social Democrats remain the biggest party, followed for now by the Sweden Democrats ahead of the Moderates.

22:50 Bathed in red

The Local’s Paul O’Mahony is now at the Left Party’s election night party. They’re not allowing any senior party representatives to comment until party leader Nooshi Dadgostar has made a statement. Here’s what Paul tells me:

“The Left Party election night bash is bathed in red and the party faithful are in relatively good spirits. But with the result on a knife edge and the party’s early scores uninspiring no one is getting too excited. Definite DJ theme emerging though: Girls Just Want to Have Fun and Run the World (Girls) on the speakers.”

The Left Party election night event. Photo: Paul O’Mahony/The Local

22:45 ‘We’ll get more synchronised’

The Local’s publisher and CEO James Savage has spoken with Hanif Bali, an outgoing MP for the Moderates who is not standing for re-election. Here’s his interview:

What are your initial reflections on the results so far?

Bali: “It’s not looking great for us right now. The Moderates usually grow late in the evening in the larger districts, but the result that SD will be bigger than us looks unlikely to change, and that’s not fun.”

If the result is unchanged, how will you reflect on the Moderates’ strategy over the past few years and during the election? Which mistakes have you made?

Bali: “I don’t think it’s the election campaign that’s the problems have arisen. I think it’s a long-term problem, with actual problems that exist in Sweden, where many voters view us as partly responsible. And so you have to restore credibility and do a proper analysis on why it’s come to this.”

How do you think cooperation between parties on the right will be if you don’t win power?

Bali: “We’ll deepen the partnership even more and get more synchronised, and make sure we have a complete programme for government and an election platform to show we’re an alternative government.”

What about Nyans, which seems to be doing well in some suburbs of Stockholm?

Bali: “Well, this is the tiger that people have been riding which is now going to eat them up. This is the result of making big demographic changes in Sweden. People don’t become western liberal democrats just because they cross a border, and what we see now is identitarian Muslims getting elected to political assemblies and that’s going to have consequences.”

22:22 ‘I’ve never been so nervous’

Matilda Ekeblad, chair of the MUF, the Moderates’ youth party, has told The Local’s Richard Orange that she is feeling extremely tense as the results are so far staying stubbornly close to the exit poll result.

“I am really on edge. I still think we’ll take it home, but I’ve never been so nervous,” she said.

Asked if she thinks Ulf Kristersson should resign if he loses the election, she laughed nervously.

“I think we’ll see when we get a result. I think he’s going to be Prime Minister.”

Pushed on whether it had been a mistake to accept the support and begin political cooperation with the far-right Sweden Democrats, she said it had been necessary.

“Obviously, we don’t think it’s a lot of fun. We would have felt a lot better to have a pure centre-right government like the Alliance was,” she said about the centre-right coalition that governed Sweden between 2006 and 2014.

22:00 How does the next government get picked?

Sweden uses a form of proportional representation called the modified Sainte-Laguë method (jämkade uddatalsmetoden) to allocate seats.

In short: the parties’ total number of votes per constituency are divided by 1.2 in the first round of counting and the first seat gets allocated to whichever party has the highest quotient. In the next round they’re divided by 3, then 5, then 7 and so on. Only parties that have won more than four percent of the vote nationwide (or at least 12 percent of the vote in a specific constituency, although this is unlikely to happen) get counted.

They keep going like this until 310 so-called fixed seats have been allocated. Thirty-nine levelling seats remain and are then allocated to ensure that the parties are proportionally represented.

Once we know how many seats the parties get in parliament, the work to form the next government begins. The incumbent government doesn’t automatically get ousted, so first the prime minister either resigns or says that they want to remain in power – then, parliament votes on whether or not to accept the prime minister’s government. If more than half of the MPs vote no, the prime minister and government must resign, otherwise things remain as they are.

When the prime minister resigns, the speaker of parliament will initiate talks with the party leaders to figure out who is best positioned to form a new government. Sweden usually has a minority government (sometimes made up of a coalition of several parties, sometimes only one party) that enjoys the support of enough other parties in parliament to make up a majority. 

For example, Magdalena Andersson is currently in charge of a Social Democrat government which only has 100 out of 349 seats in parliament, but with the support of the Greens and to some extent the Centre, Left, and one left-leaning independent MP who tends to side with the government, she has a slim majority in parliament. Yes, it’s been an interesting four years.

Then, parliament votes on the speaker’s proposal. If yes, Sweden has a new government. If no, the speaker resumes talks with the parties. This process took 129 days after the 2018 election, a record for Sweden (the previous record was 25 days after the 1979 election).

21:53 Counting under way

You can follow the preliminary results in real time on the Election Authority’s website. After around 1,500 out of more than 6,500 districts have been counted, the Social Democrats are in the lead at just over 30 percent, followed by the Sweden Democrats at almost 21 percent and the Moderates at almost 18 percent.

It is, of course, still way too early to draw any conclusions based on that.

21:21 ‘I’m very relieved’

The Local spoke to the Liberal Party MP and gender equality policy spokeswoman Gulan Avci about how she felt after the first two exit polls suggested her party would get enough votes to stay in the Riksdag.

“I’m very relieved because it seems like my party, the Liberals, are going to continue to have seats in the Swedish parliament.”

Avci has previously lashed out at the Social Democrats for labelling the Liberals as racists and Nazi enablers after they switched sides mid-term and sided with a right-wing bloc dependent on the support of the far-right Sweden Democrats. We asked what she says to people who accuse the Liberals of abandoning their liberal principles.

“They should be ashamed tonight, especially the ministers of this government that have been ruling Sweden. Because we have so many urgent problems to solve in Sweden and they had a campaign toward our party, and they have been lying about us and not been talking about their own agenda because six months ago they thought that we were going to leave the parliament, that it would be a really easy trip for them to continue to have power,” sad Avci.

“But now, with our new party leader Johan Pehrson, we are are back in the game. The Social Democrats know that we are the ones, the Liberals, that can tip point [sic] the power so that we have a governmental change. So that’s how you should see this campaign against us.”

Gulan Avci of the Liberal Party. Photo: Paul O’Mahony/The Local

21:11 ‘Proud of what we’ve done as a party’

The Local’s Becky Waterton has spoken with Energy Minister Khashayar Farmanbar at the Social Democrats’ election event. Here’s the full interview:

How did it feel hearing the exit polls, what was your first reaction to hearing what SVT and TV4 predicted?

Farmanbar: “It’s always hard to define the progress based on the exit polls, but I think honestly that we are underestimated in the exit polls. The feeling that we have had during the last weeks in the election has been really good, we have had a tremendous party leader who has done really really good, I think we are doing really well. But whether it’s going to be enough bloc-wise, together with the other parties, to get a majority or not, it’s too early to say. It looks good so far and I’m really proud of what we’ve done as a party.”

The Sweden Democrats have potentially become the second-largest party in Sweden, how does that feel that your traditional opponents have been overtaken by the Sweden Democrats?

Farmanbar: “In many ways it was expected, but it’s horrible, I mean we knew even since the 30s from the experiences in other countries in Europe, recent experiences in Poland or Hungary, every time the regular right wing parties start to accept or embrace extreme-right parties, they will lose and the extreme right will win. And that’s what we’re seeing now in the polls, isn’t it? And it’s really horrible to see that the right-wing parties in Sweden didn’t have enough knowledge about history and how that plays out, every time the right embraces the extreme right, the extreme right wins, and that’s what we’re seeing.”

You’ve also had some critique in your party for adopting more anti-immigrant rhetoric, do you think that’s benefitted you in this election?

Farmanbar [objecting to the premise of the question]: “I’m not sure about that, it’s very easy to say that but what we’ve done is to adapt to what we’ve seen in the rest of Europe. In the rest of Europe after 2014-15 the war in Syria, the rest of Europe closed off. Sweden and Germany were basically the only countries accepting refugees and immigrants coming here and seeking peace refuge, and I think it’s really important to say to the rest of Europe that everybody has to be part of this, you cannot accept us to be the only ones, we are all part of this and all part of this together.

“That’s kind of the message that we’ve been sending to the rest of Europe, and that shouldn’t be messed up with the message the extreme right is sending, their message is ‘we don’t like people coming from other countries’ and that’s a totally different message.

Your party is making work permits harder to get, you’re reintroducing arbetsmarknadsprövning

Farmanbar: “Definitely, and when it comes to seeking refuge here because you need refuge from harshness or war or something, that’s one thing, we aren’t harder on that, but we’ve also seen during the last few years, the last ten years, that Sweden’s immigration laws have made it very easy to bring people here from other countries and use them as low-paid workforce, and that’s not OK. So we’re saying no to that. If you want to bring somebody here to work, you better pay them the amount you would pay someone who already lives here. And that’s what we’re saying.”

So it’s a pro-immigrant policy because it protects immigrants?

“It’s a protection for immigrants but it’s also a protection for the workforce, we really want a workforce to have their rights, because that has been historically one of Sweden’s major wins. Working in Sweden has always had high value, you’ve had good wages, you’ve had good possibilities in your work. That has made work expensive, but that has also made it very good to work in Sweden.

“That has been our niche of creating a welfare society, so we’re not ready to give up on that and say ‘hey it’s OK to bring someone here for free’ or almost for free. And that’s kind of different than saying we don’t like people from other countries. They are very welcome here to work, as long as the people hiring them are prepared to pay the same amount they would pay a Swede.”

20:55 ‘Great optimism in our campaign’

When will we get an actual result? Maybe around 11pm, but it could be later due to long queues at polling stations today.

In the meantime, Richard Orange has spoken with Gunnar Strömmer, the Moderate Party’s general secretary. He told The Local that there was still everything to play for after a strong last week for his party’s campaign.

“Actually, it’s not so bad at all. It looks as if it’s a very tight race between the two sides. And our ultimate goal is to form a new government, and that is still in reach,” he said.

He said he was also confident that his party still had a chance of overcoming the lead the Sweden Democrats had in the exit poll, and retaining its position as Sweden’s second biggest party.

“Well, certainly. In a couple of hours, we will have the electoral results from the voters, and our experience tells us to await the election result.”

“I think there’s been a great optimism in our campaign, not least in the last week with, I think, six debates in different media outlets, and our party chairman Ulf Kristersson has won them all.

“So I think we have had a very good last week in the campaign. And then we will see how it will all end.”

Moderate Party general secretary Gunnar Strömmer. Photo: Richard Orange/The Local

20:25 Why we shouldn’t trust exit polls too much

James Savage points out one thing worth noting about this exit poll: if the Moderates are understated to the same extent as in 2018, and if the Sweden Democrats are overstated to the same extent as in 2018, then the Moderates would keep their position as the second party. Obviously it’s unlikely that this exit poll will vary from the result in exactly the same way as last time, but the Sweden Democrats’ position as second largest party is not yet assured.

Over at the Moderates’ election party, Richard Orange has spoken with Gunnar Hökmark, the influential former Moderate MEP. He told The Local ahead of the exit poll results that he believed that it would take some time to get a result.

“I think it will take some time, because the polls are so close and the voting procedure has been delayed in a number of polling stations. So I think it will be a long night.”

He said his party had been right to end the cordon sanitaire with the far-right Sweden Democrats.

“I’m only happy about the Moderate Party getting as strong support as possible in order to get parliamentary support for the reforms we want to have, anyone who can support them” he said. “And they are on the same page as us on Nato, regarding migration, and where we are on different pages, we have other parties who can support us as well.

“So I don’t have any fear of the Sweden Democrats, but I do have fear of having the same government as we had for the last eight years because that will produce the same result as we have seen.”

20:05 Reactions

Reporting live from the Social Democrats’ election party, The Local’s Becky Waterton says that there were hugs, cheers and clapping around the room as both the TV4 and SVT polls predicted a majority for her “red bloc”. And there was also a fair amount of schadenfreude on behalf of Moderate leader Ulf Kristersson, for whom the result would be disastrous if it holds. Bear in mind that these are only exit polls, so it’s wise to take them with a pinch of salt.

When The Local asked Ulf Adelsohn, a former leader of the Moderates, about the result, he said: “I’ll feel something when there is a result… but if that’s the result, then it isn’t good.”

Paul O’Mahony reports the following from the Liberals’ election event:

“The Liberals have secured 4.9 percent of the vote according to TV4’s exit poll, the first of the evening. Even if these early scores need to be taken with a pinch of salt it was interesting to feel the relief in the room. This was the lowest score of any party but if they stay at this level they will at least remain in parliament. Given how dire things were looking a few short months ago you get the sense they could live with this.

“After SVT’s exit poll showed the Liberals on 4.7 percent, slightly lower than TV4’s poll, relief again coursed through the room and the big screen displayed a message that needs no translation: Liberalernas fantastiska comeback!”

20:00 Majority for left bloc in exit polls

Public broadcaster SVT’s exit poll is now in:

Social Democrats: 29.3%

Sweden Democrats: 20.5%

Moderates: 18.8%

Centre Party: 7.7%

Left Party: 7.0%

Green Party: 5.8%

Christian Democrats: 5.2%

Liberals: 4.7%

The Social Democrat-led left bloc would get 176 seats according to this, compared to the right bloc’s 173 seats.

19:53 First exit polls

The TV4 broadcaster has just presented its exit poll, giving a majority to the left bloc:

Social Democrats: 29.7%

Sweden Democrats: 21.3%

Moderates: 16.0%

Left Party: 7.5%

Centre Party: 7.4%

Green Party: 6.0%

Christian Democrats: 5.8%

Liberals: 4.9%

The Local’s Richard Orange reports from the Moderates’ election party:

“The Moderates’ election vigil went noticeably quieter as TV4’s exit poll was shown on screens by the hotel bar, with the occasional eruptions of nervous laughter becoming fewer and fewer, as first there was a significant lift for the Social Democrats, then the Green Party on a much higher than expected 6 percent, a poor result for the Christian Democrats and then the Moderates down at a catastrophic 16 percent.

“When the Sweden Democrats came in with 21.3 percent, the room was entirely siltent.

“When the broadcast was over, one activist called for hard liquor. ‘Sprit!’ he declared, to the laughter of his companions.”

19:50 ‘It’s only a poll’

We’re waiting for the first exit polls to come in. Here’s James Savage on how much they actually matter:

“I’m at SVT, where researchers from the University of Gothenburg will release their big exit poll at 8pm, just as polling stations close. In the poll, 11,000 voters are asked which party they have voted for, along with 60 other questions.

“The poll is usually gives quite a good idea of how the election has gone, but it’s important to remember that it’s only a poll. In 2018 the Social Democrats result in the exit poll was 26.2%, but when the votes were counted they were up at 28.3%; the Moderates were at 17.8, but did slightly better in the end with 19.8. The Sweden Democrats’ result was slightly overstated in the exit poll, where they got 19.2% compared to 17.6% in the final reckoning.”

19:45 ‘It’s been a really dirty election campaign’

The Local’s Paul O’Mahony is at the Liberals’ election night party. Here’s his report:

The Liberals are struggling with an identity crisis that threatens their political survival.

After beginning the government term as an ally of the ruling Social Democrats, last year the party controversially walked away from the four-party January Agreement it had signed with the Centre Party, Greens and Social Democrats. Instead the party switched sides and is now angling to form a government with the Moderates and Christian Democrats – a government that would require the support of the far-right Sweden Democrats.

After plunging towards two percent in opinion polls Nyamko Sabuni resigned in April this year and was replaced by Johan Pehrson. His folksy appeal led to an initial resurgence. But in recent polls the party has once again been hovering perilously close to the four percent threshold and there are a lot of nerves on display here at their election night party.

The Local caught up with Cecilia Elving, the head of the party’s women’s organisation, Liberala Kvinnor.

Given how much anti-immigrant rhetoric we’ve seen in the election campaigns from multiple parties, we asked what her party would do to combat this?

“It’s been a really dirty election campaign, also from the Social Democrats, and there’s a lot of rumours that just aren’t true that are going around, so I think it’s really important after this election to really sit down and kill those myths. But of course we’ll stand up for what we believe in.”

Despite the fact that a right-wing government would require the support of the Sweden Democrats, which is polling at around 20 percent, Elving said she felt “really secure” the party would not abandon its Liberal principles. She also insisted that her party would never join a government that included the Sweden Democrats.

Cecilia Elving, the head of the Liberal party’s women’s organisation. Photo: Paul O’Mahony/The Local

19:30 Moderate party leader arrives

Becky just sent me an update from the Moderates’ election night event. The conservative party has controversially joined forces with the anti-immigration Sweden Democrats in recent years, although the latter are currently polling ahead of the Moderates. Becky writes:

“We manage to time our arrival at the Moderates’ election night party well, turning up just as party leader Ulf Kristersson’s tour bus arrives. He disembarks and is immediately swarmed by journalists, saying he believes the blue bloc is on course for a victory. In the same moment, a cyclist speeds past, shouting ‘bloody traitors’ at the crowd of Moderate party members. Kristersson seems unbothered and makes his way over the blue carpet into the hotel lobby.

“The election party location seems somewhat misplaced just a few metres from the headquarters of LO, Sweden’s largest trade union with strong connections to the Social Democrats. But who will be coming out on top at the end of the night?”

19:16 Where can I see the results?

I got a question from a reader about where you can follow the counting of votes later (counting will start once the polling stations close). We’ll report the main results in this live blog, but if you’re really, really interested you can also follow it live on the Election Authority’s website. Here’s a link.

19:00 Dressed for success?

The Local’s Becky Waterton is at the Social Democrats’ election night party. She just sent me this:

“Centrally located within sight of the offices of one of Sweden’s largest media empires, the Social Democrats’ valvaka [election night party] feels decidedly establishment. We passed through a police cordon alongside a cohort of formally dressed young Social Democrats, which gave the event more of the feeling of a high school prom than the election party of Sweden’s ruling party. They clearly hope to be celebrating rather than commiserating at the end of the night.”

Sweden’s largest party hasn’t been performing massively impressively in the polls ahead of the election, so we’ll see if they actually have cause to celebrate.

Richard Orange will report later from the Moderates election party and Paul O’Mahony is on his way to several, starting with the Liberals. The Local’s CEO and publisher James Savage is at public broadcaster SVT’s election event, where he’ll try to get news and interviews with politicians as they make their way there.

Unfortunately we don’t have anyone at the Sweden Democrats’ election night party, because our accreditation application got rejected due to space issues. We weren’t the only ones: reporters from the BBC, Le Monde and left-wing Swedish newspaper ETC also got denied accreditation.

18:15 Flying the flag

Election Day is an official flag day in Sweden, and the buses in Stockholm are decorated with little Swedish flags. The Local’s reporter Becky Waterton took this picture earlier:

17:52 How to vote in the Swedish election

Voting closes in just over two hours, so if you’re eligible to vote but haven’t yet, here’s a quick reminder of how it works:

If you’ve lost your voting card, that’s OK, but bring your ID.

At the first polling booth, there are different ballot papers for each of the three elections taking place: yellow papers are for the Riksdag elections, blue for the county council, and white for the municipal council.

There are also three different kinds of ballot papers, allowing you to vote either for a particular party (without identifying a specific candidate), to choose from a list of candidates as well as parties, or to vote using a blank ballot paper. On blank ballot papers, you can write down any party and candidate. So if you can’t find your preferred party’s ballot, you can just write the party name on a blank ballot.

You then go to the second polling booth, where you put the ballot papers you picked in their envelopes and hand it to the election officer in the room.

17:40 What might Sweden’s next government actually look like?

The short and probably most accurate answer is: WHO KNOWS?! 

The medium-length answer is that the left and the right bloc are incredibly close in the polls. A left-wing government would likely be headed by the Social Democrats, who would likely seek support from the Greens, the Centre and the Left. Easier said than done. The Centre and Left are far apart on issues such as the budget – both are likely to want to be in government if the other party is, but neither will want to be in government together. It’s a conundrum!

A right-wing government might be headed by the conservative Moderates, who are currently the largest opposition party, probably in a government coalition with the Christian Democrats, possibly the Liberals, and with the support of the Sweden Democrats in parliament. But there’s an X factor: the Sweden Democrats have been polling higher than the Moderates in some recent polls. If they become the biggest opposition party, will they accept staying on the sidelines?

A grand coalition of the Social Democrats and the Moderates is possible, but unlikely. They are each other’s arch rivals, and would only join forces when all other options have been exhausted.

For the long answer, here’s The Local’s interview with a political scientist.

17:30 Report from polling station

The Local’s editorial product manager Paul O’Mahony has been speaking with voters in Hökarängen, a suburb south of Stockholm.

The Swedish word for polling station, by the way, is vallokal.

17:20 When will we get a result? It’s not clear

I wrote earlier that we expected a preliminary result by 11pm, but Swedish public broadcaster SVT reports that the long queues at several polling stations may delay the count (since everyone already queueing when they close will be allowed to cast their vote).

The queues are likely due to the new procedure of keeping ballot papers behind a screen instead of out in the open on a table, which was introduced after OSCE criticised Sweden in the last election. Up until then it was common practice among Swedes to pick up a great selection of ballot papers in order to confuse potential onlookers before heading into the shielded polling booth where they cast their votes.

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17:00 What do I need to know about Sweden’s political parties?

We’ve got several handy guides on The Local. Here are some of them:

Click HERE for a look at the party leaders and what their parties stand for. 

Click HERE for links to all the Swedish parties’ election manifestos.

We’ve also looked into how the election pledges made in the manifestos of Sweden’s three largest parties (the centre-left Social Democrats, the conservative Moderates and the anti-immigration Sweden Democrats) would affect the lives of foreigners in Sweden. Click their party names to get to those three articles on The Local. 

HERE’S another roundup of how the Swedish parties’ election pledges could affect foreigners.

16:30 ‘We’ve got at least one vote now’

Sweden’s party leaders have placed their ballots, but no points for guessing who they each voted for.

“We’ve got at least one vote now,” joked Green Party co-leader Per Bolund about his party’s poor performance in the polls lately.

They’ll need at least four percent to clear Sweden’s parliamentary threshold – this is important not just to the Green Party, but also to the other parties in the left bloc. If the Green Party drops out of parliament, it is likely that the right bloc will have a majority (although this could easily go the other way, too, if the right wing’s Liberals and Christian Democrats fail to get the required four percent). Here’s a breakdown of the polling figures on Friday.

16:10 Who will win? Impossible to say

We expect the first exit polls when voting closes at 8pm tonight, and then a preliminary result at around 11pm. But remember that votes from Swedish citizens abroad and early voting ballots that didn’t make it to the polling stations in time for Election Day get counted on Wednesday and it takes a week to complete the final count. In the last election, three seats changed between Election Day and the final count, and this one could go down to the wire.

The latest poll by Swedish public broadcaster SVT and pollsters Novus, from Friday, had the left bloc at 49.7 percent and the right bloc at 49.4 percent, so it could go either way. Confused about how the government gets picked? Here’s The Local’s guide to bloc politics in Sweden and what the next government could look like.

15:50 High turnout, long queues

Sweden’s turnout is high by international standards: 87 percent of eligible voters voted in the last parliamentary election in 2018, despite voting not being compulsory. Long queues have been reported at many polling stations across the country, which may suggest that turnout is higher than normal.

However, the queues could also be down to the fact that there’s a new voting procedure this year to protect election secrecy. The voting ballots have to be behind a closed screen (previously they were out in the open) and voters now have to visit two booths in succession, one to pick up their ballots and one to place them in their respective envelopes before handing them into the election officers. When I voted this morning, the first booth was a bit of a bottleneck.

The Election Authority has said that everyone who is queueing when voting closes at 8pm tonight WILL be allowed to cast their ballot.

Long queues at a polling station in Malmö on Sunday morning. Photo: Johan Nilsson/TT

15:30 Who gets to vote?

Sweden holds three elections on the same day: national, regional and municipal. 

Only Swedish citizens aged over 18 get to vote in the national election, but EU citizens plus Icelanders and Norwegians may vote in the regional and municipal elections if they’re in the Swedish population register. Citizens of other countries also get to vote in these two elections if they’ve been in the population register for at least three consecutive years before the vote. Here’s a link to The Local’s ultimate guide to voting in the Swedish election.

Statistics Sweden estimated last year that some 670,000 foreign citizens would be eligible to vote in the regional and local elections today – over 130,000 more than in the last election – and more than 8.1 million people are able to vote in all of Sweden’s elections. Are you one of them, or a new citizen voting for the first time in Sweden? Drop me an email or ping The Local on Twitter to tell us how you felt about voting and I might share it in this blog.

The Local’s acting editor Richard Orange spoke with voters in Malmö this morning and yesterday. “I think everybody is [worried about the outcome], no matter what they’re voting for, because it’s so close,” said Lisa, a lawyer, arriving at the polling station just after it opened. “I have mixed feelings about this election, because there’s so much going on right now in Swedish politics, so I’m torn,” said Disa.

Here’s a link to Richard’s interviews with voters in Rosengård, Malmö.

15:15 Who’s who in the Swedish election?

There are eight parties large enough to have cleared the Swedish parliament’s four percent threshold in the last few elections (and they don’t change much: the Sweden Democrats were the last new party to get into parliament, which they did in 2010). They are, in order of number of seats from largest to smallest, on the centre-left, the Social Democrats, Centre Party, Left Party and Green Party; and on the right, the Moderates, Sweden Democrats, Christian Democrats and Liberals. The “on the left” and “on the right” is a slighly clumsy division, so here’s a more in-depth look at who the parties are and what they stand for.

Here’s a look at the four largest parties’ election pledges, and those of the four smallest parties.

15:00 Let the election blogging begin

Hej, we’re back! I was about to say let’s get this show on the road, but frankly this whole election campaign feels like it’s already been on the road for an eternity.

At least after what’s been called the ugliest campaign in Swedish history, I look forward to an evening of what I’m sure will be friendly and level-headed discussions. And if I can’t have that, well, I’ve ordered pizza so there’s that.

Voting will close in five hours and that’s when we expect the first exit polls (you can read more here to get a sense of when things will happen tonight), but before then we’ll keep you posted with the latest news, gossip, expert insights and more. If you have any questions, comments or feedback, please feel free to email or tweet me and I’ll do my best to answer (depending on workload and, also, my general mood).

No matter how you feel about the election, I hope you’ll at least enjoy our coverage!

08:00 Voting opens

Good morning! Polling stations across Sweden have opened for a tense election that’s been too close to call in the weeks running up to today. Will we get a right-wing coalition backed or joined by a party with neo-Nazi roots, another run of the weak centre-left government currently in power, or something else entirely?

Stay tuned as we find out.

By the way, it’s slightly misleading to say that “voting opens” today, because early voting in fact opened on August 24th, and more than 2.5 million people have already placed their vote – a ten-percent increase of early votes compared to Sweden’s last election in 2018. If you’re eligible to vote in Sweden’s national, regional or local elections, make sure you head to the polls early as there have been reports of long queues outside polling stations for early voting this week.

We’ll kick off our live blog at 3pm with the first exit polls expected shortly after voting closes at 8pm. I’m The Local’s editor, Emma Löfgren, currently on parental leave but clocking in just for this. Our acting editor Richard Orange is on his way to Stockholm together with our deputy editor Becky Waterton, and with the help of The Local’s editorial product manager Paul O’Mahony and CEO James Savage they will be reporting straight from Sweden’s election night parties later today.

Immigration has been one of the hot topics in the run-up to this election, but who’s been talking to the immigrants? Not the parties, anyway, argue Richard and Julia Agha, the CEO of the Arabic-language Swedish news service Alkompis, in an opinion piece published by Sweden’s largest newspaper, Aftonbladet. Here’s the English version, and don’t miss the latest episode of The Local’s Sweden in Focus podcast, where they discuss that plus the key election issues. 

Not sure what to make of it all? Here’s a quick guide to how to vote and the articles that explain what’s at stake.

Are you a member of The Local? If not, consider joining us. If yes, thank you, your support helps us dedicate time and resources to this.

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CITIZENSHIP

Moderate MP calls for moratorium on Swedish citizenship grants

An MP for the right-wing Moderate party has called for a moratorium on Swedish citizenship until new tougher rules planned by the incoming right-wing government are in place.

Moderate MP calls for moratorium on Swedish citizenship grants

Fredrik Kärrholm, a former police officer newly elected as a Moderate MP, floated the idea of the moratorium in a tweet on Thursday. 

“The Christian Democrats, Liberals, Sweden Democrats and Moderates all want to tighten citizenship requirements,” he wrote. 

“Right now 96,411 applications are being processed. While new legislation is being hammered out, a moratorium on new citizenships should be considered.” 

The proposal seems to come from Kärrholm himself, and does not necessarily reflect Moderate Party policy, but it may indicate the thinking of some in the party over tightening citizenship, a subject which is bound to be a significant part of the ongoing discussions on the next government’s programme.  

Kärrholm caused controversy in the election campaign for posing in campaign literature dressed in police uniform, despite having left the police force in 2021. 

Sweden’s national police said at the time that it was inappropriate for former or serving police officers to use police uniform or symbols in political campaigns. 

“This is about preserving the confidence of the public and keeping political roles separate from roles as a public official,” police spokesperson Irene Sokolow told the Aftonbladet newspaper

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