“Now we are in the Riksdag! We are in!” said Jimmie Åkesson, leader of the Sweden Democrats as he addressed close supporters gathered Sunday to fete the party’s entry into parliament.
After a triumphal arrival – music, cheers, chants and lights – in an isolated Stockholm restaurant at around 10:30 pm local time, Åkesson fell into the arms of Björn Söder, the Sweden Democrats’ party secretary general. A long hug followed with the two men clamping their eyelids shut as if to keep tears from running down their cheeks.
“Today, we have written political history,” he said and then sang along to a catchy Swedish song with the words “We are on our way, do you want to come with us?”
While awaiting Åkesson’s arrival, the supporters had already started celebrating the Sweden Democrats maiden entry into parliament before the near final results were announced.
“It’s the best time of my life, better than when I won a championship with my football team as a child!” Sweden Democrat candidate Christian Westling said.
A few dozen supporters earlier waited for the first results amid an increasingly tense atmosphere.
“Now, now, now…” they chanted under their breaths before screaming with joy at 8:00 pm sharp, when television stations aired exit polls showing it had got 4.6 percent of the vote, well above the 4 percent level needed to enter parliament.
Alexandra Brunell, a tall blonde 20-year-old, said with a smile, “It will be much better in Sweden now.”
Around her, cheers, screams and hugs prevailed as Soeder, the party’s ideological leader, tried to keep his emotions in check.
“We are very happy, because we know we’re underestimated in such [exit] polls. Our goal is to have seats in parliament, so we are waiting for the final results,” said Söder.
He was already looking to the future, planning Monday morning’s agenda.
“We hope to have contacts tomorrow with other parties” who won the election, he said.
That is because the Sweden Democrats will not only make their entrance into parliament, but will also play kingmaker in a narrowly split parliament in which no bloc has a majority, according to near final results, which have credited the party with 5.7 percent of the vote.
During the campaign, both the centre-right coalition -on its way to being re-elected – and the left-wing opposition bloc had vowed not to collaborate with the far-right.
However, Åkesson told AFP a few days ago those assurances would not hold true once his party was actually voted in.
“They have to say that until Sunday, but we’ll hear something else Monday,” Åkesson predicted.
Already before the exit poll results were announced, the atmosphere at the Sweden Democrat post-election headquarters was festive. Supporters were clad in evening wear, ladies sporting high heels and evening dresses while most men sported dark suits, white shirts and ties or bowties.
Around 7:15 pm, as plates of salmon and champagne glasses already stood empty, the Sweden Democrats chided the media for “boycotting” the far-right during the campaign.
In front of a banderole reading “Sweden’s new parliamentary party,” ironic prizes were awarded to dailies Dagens Nyheter and Expressen and private network TV4 for having had an anti-Sweden Democrat bias in election coverage.
As Westling congratulated a reporter from Expressen for turning up to come pick up his prize, TV4 was awarded the “2010 censorship award,” for having refused to broadcast a Sweden Democrat campaign ad it had deemed hateful.
Then the glasses filled up again as the results poured in.