“We lost,” Sahlin told a gathering of crestfallen supporters as near-final results showed the opposition coalition made up of her Social Democrats, the Greens and formerly communist Left Party had won just 156 of the parliament’s 349 seats.
“We were not able to win back confidence,” she lamented, acknowledging that Prime Minister Fredrik Reinfeldt’s centre-right Alliance government had won the most votes, landing 173 seats.
“The Alliance is the largest majority. It has first dibs in creating a government. It is now up to Fredrick Reinfeldt how he plans to rule Sweden without letting the (far-right) Sweden Democrats get political influence,” she said.
“We will never contribute to that happening,” she added.
The far-right party easily passed the four-percent barrier for entering parliament, winning 5.7 percent of the vote, or 20 seats, according to a tally of nearly 99 percent of ballots.
Even with a handful of parliamentary seats, observers have cautioned the far-right party would play kingmaker or spoiler, forcing Reinfeldt to seek new alliances or even make it so difficult to govern that new elections would need to be called.
Reinfeldt’s win spells a decisive end to the Social Democrats’ 80-year domination of Swedish politics and their role as caretakers of the country’s famous cradle-to-grave welfare state.
The party, which for the first time had created a coalition of leftwing parties to increase its chances of winning power, suffered a historic loss according to partial results, which showed it had garnered just 30.8 percent, down from 35.3 percent in 2006, when its score was already one of its weakest on record.
“We had a bad election, a very bad election. We were unable to win back voter support,” Sahlin said, cautioning that the far-right rise had put Sweden in a “dangerous political situation.”
“I have dedicated my entire life to fight xenophobia … and that doesn’t end now,” she said to the cheering crowd.