James Savage, Wednesday September 22, 10:13pm
Things aren’t looking good for the Alliance. They picked up one extra seat thanks to advance and overseas ballots, and now have 173 seats, against 175 for the four opposition parties (the Red-Greens plus the Sweden Democrats).
The Liberals failed by the smallest of margins to take seats in Värmland (which they missed by seven votes) and Gothenburg (which they missed by nine votes). The Centre Party picked up one seat in Dalarna, which means the Alliance is only two seats from an overall majority. Close, but not close enough.
There remains a theoretical possibility that the Alliance could take two national ‘adjustment seats’ – seats allocated on a national basis. But according to the ubiquitous Svante Linusson, a professor in Mathematics from the Royal Institute of Technology quoted by almost every newspaper (when was the last time a mathematician was in such media demand?), there is virtually no chance of this happening.
What then remains is the possibility of appeal. Given the closeness of the result and the high stakes involved, it would be incredible if the parties didn’t immediately start poring over the details of the counts to look for irregularities.
Appeals are heard by the ‘Valprövningsnämnd’, a committee appointed by the current Riksdag and chaired by a judge. But these appeals won’t be heard for at least a month – and Sweden needs a new government within a week.
So, short of a miracle or surprise defections, the Alliance will have to do deals to get its legislation through.
For the first time since the current Swedish electoral system was introduced, it has thrown up a government with the majority of the national votes, but without a majority of the seats.
Fredrik Reinfeldt has been set the toughest challenge of his career.
That’s it from us for this evening, but we’ll be back on the case early tomorrow morning.
David Landes, Wednesday September 22, 10:13pm
According to the Swedish Election Authority website, results from 6,054 of the 6,036 electoral districts have been certified. Looking at the percentages as compared with the election night results, the Moderates have inched up from 30.0 to 30.1 percent of the vote and the Social Democrats have dropped from 30.9 to 30.7 percent of the vote, bringing Sweden’s two largest parties even closer to parity.
The Green Party’s overall percentage also crept up from 7.2 to 7.3 percent of the votes.
But the percentages are rather academic at this point, as the ultimate distribution of seats–and power–in the Riksdag has come down to a few dozen votes in three districts: Dalarna, Gothenburg, and Värmland.
Currently, the Alliance remains two seats shy of an absolute majority of 175 seats in the Riksdag. While the Centre Party picked up a seat in Dalarna, bringing the total for the Alliance up to 173, the Liberal Party lost out on winning a seat in Gothenburg — by just 4 votes, meaning there will be a recount.
Results from Värmland, the other contested district, haven’t come in yet, leaving the Alliance with one more seats than had on election night, but still facing the prospect of governing with a minority.
So it looks like Sweden’s politicos are heading toward one more night of fitful sleep. As they toss and turn into the wee hours of Thursday morning, they’ll no doubt be pondering the various scenarios they may face depending on the whims held by a handful of Swedes, many of whom live overseas, when they dropped their advance ballots in the mail in the days prior to the election.
And let’s not forget the officials at the various county administrative boards around the country who continue to count ballots as fast as their fingers (or the machines) will let them in hopes of bringing closure to this extended electoral drama. They probably won’t be getting much sleep tonight either.
Peter Vinthagen Simpson, Wednesday September 22, 9:56pm
After 6049 of the 6063 electoral districts have been counted, the four Alliance parties look to have accumulated more votes that the combined opposition (encompassing both the Red-Greens and the Sweden Democrats).
But as a consequence of the complex division of seats in the election system, they still do not have an absolute majority in the Riksdag.
This is the first time that this has occurred under the current Swedish electoral system.
David Landes, Wednesday September 22, 9:48pm
If you’re just joining us, or tuning in again for the first time since Monday, here are a few stories from the last couple of days to bring you up to speed on the not-quite-yet-finished Swedish election results:
Sept. 20: Moderates and Greens call for time
Sept. 22: Election results could turn on 298 votes
Peter Vinthagen Simpson, Wednesday September 22, 9:27pm
The speaker of Sweden’s Riksdag, Per Westerberg has come in for criticism for comments in a Sveriges Radio interview taken to imply that he suggested that the parliament is in a similar situation with the Sweden Democrats as with the New Democracy (Ny Demkrati) in 1991, a rightist, populist party which propped up the centre-right government under Carl Bildt.
The comments have drawn criticism from the Social Democrats’ Sven-Erik Österberg and praise from the Sweden Democrats who have interpreted the comments to mean that Westerberg suggests that the mainstream parties should work with them.
Westerberg has replied this evening that he is well aware that it is not the speaker’s job to have an opinion on which parties should work with whom.
James Savage, Wednesday September 22, 6:37pm
The Liberal Party – and by extension the Alliance – has lost one seat it needed to gain in Gothenburg to the Social Democrats – by just four votes. These will now be recounted, and with the result hanging by such a small margin, the result could easily change.
This follows the news that gains by the Left Party in Dalarna mean that the Centre Party has taken a seat from the Social Democrats.
More results are expected this evening.
Peter Vinthagen Simpson, Monday, September 20, 5:37pm
The working day after election day starts to draw to a close with more questions raised than answers given.
The issue of how Sweden’s next government is to be formed remains an open question with Prime Minister Fredrik Reinfeldt stating his intention to open talks with a Green Party that has offered only the slightest indication of reciprocity, instead calling for broad participation of all parliamentary parties in talks.
Reinfeldt however has insisted that he is prepared to push on with forming a minority government, which is, despite some of the heated rhetoric on Monday, more the rule than the exception in Swedish politics.
The Stockholm stock market appeared to take the election result and ongoing uncertainty in its stride, with both small gains in the main indices and a strengthening of the Swedish krona.
Peter Vinthagen Simpson, 4:33pm
Demonstrations are set to be held in Stockholm and Malmö on Monday in a show of solidarity for the country’s immigrant population after the Sweden Democrats secured parliamentary seats.
Thousands of Swedes are expected to assemble on Sergels torg in central Stockholm at 6pm to voice their displeasure after the election.
Vivian Tse, 3:37pm
Around the world, Sweden’s election result was considered a top story on news sites on Monday, according to a survey conducted by news agency TT.
Reuters and AFP topped their headlines at noon with the news of how the centre-right Swedish government succeeded in the historic feat of winning re-election, but disappointingly, have lost their majority rule and have ended up in the hands of Sweden’s first anti-immigration party.
The story also topped news coverage by television channel Al-Jazeera and was high in priority among US television channels such as CNN and CBS News, but not with competitor ABC.
German newsweekly Der Spiegel ran running a web videos high on its website, as did daily newspaper Frankfurter Allgemeine Zeitung. Both The Telegraph and The Guardian in the UK have listed the news that in the day’s top 10, as did Spain’s El Mundo and France’s Le Monde.
Italy’s Corriere della Sera followed up with an interview with Sweden Democrat leader Jimmie Åkesson under the heading “Non siamo razzisti. Per gli stranieri non c’è piu posto,” which roughly translates into, “We are not racists, but for immigrants, there is no longer space.”
David Landes, 3:27pm
Following several hours of talks on Monday, the Social Democratic leadership emerged Wednesday afternoon to say they planned to from a special crisis group to analyze what went wrong in the election campaign and to come up with ideas for how the party can regain their role as a major progressive force in Swedish politics.
Mona Sahlin was asked if participating in the Red-Green opposition coalition may have contributed to the loss.
“I don’t know,” she told TT, saying that it was clear from the numbers that it had an impact, but it would take more analysis to know exactly how.
“I’m sure if we hadn’t established the red-green cooperation during this past parliamentary term, things would have looked different, and the possibilities for challenging the centre-right government would have been very small.”
Vivian Tse, 3:08pm
Anti-immigrant Danish People’s Party leader Pia Kjærsgaard has called Prime Minister Fredrik Reinfeldt “embarrassing” in a radio interview in Denmark on Monday.
“It is embarrassing when Fredrik Reinfeldt does not want to act on the voters’ choice and collaborate with the Sweden Democrats,” Kjærsgaard told Danmarks Radio after the Swedish elections.
Although Kjærsgaard stumped for the Sweden Democrats in southern Skåne, she stopped short of calling it a sister party.
“We do not know each other so well yet,” she said.
However, the treatment of the Sweden Democrats reminded her of the problems her own party faced in the beginning.
“They have been exposed to such large absurdities that one almost does not believe his own ears and eyes,” she said. “it shows that the Swedish democracy, unfortunately, does not work.
After the 1998 elections, nobody wanted to take in her party, even with “fire tongs.” However, since the 2001 election, when the current Left-Conservative took office, the party has had a “solid and credible co-operation” with the government.
Her advice to Sweden Democrat leaders on how to approach the other parties in parliament is accordingly based on personal experience.
“Just take it easy. It will be all right,” she said.
Peter Vinthagen Simpson, 2:07pm
Prime Minister Fredrik Reinfeldt holds a press conference at the government offices.
Reinfeldt described the election as “mixed” for both coalitions, but underlined that a significant shift had occurred in Swedish politics since 2002 and 2010. After the elections last time around the Moderates were coming to terms with 15 percent support, with their status as second party in threat, but in 2010 the party had closed to near equilibrium.
Reinfeldt expressed regret over the advance of the Sweden Democrats, saying that 7,000 votes was the difference between them occupying a kingmaker role and remaining out in the political cold. He underlined meanwhile that he would not make an Alliance minority government dependent on the anti-immigrant party.
Green Party spokerspersons Peter Eriksson and Maria Wetterstrand held a press conference immediately after and challenged Reinfeldt to open discussions with all “seven” parliamentary parties, in order to exclude the eighth – Sweden Democrats – from any form of influence on government power.
Maria Wetterstrand argued the Green Party’s voters had not given them any mandate to open direct negotiations with the Alliance, nor to sit in government with them or cooperate with them.
David Landes, 1:55pm
Wanja Lundby-Wedin, the head of the Trade Union Confederation (LO), Sweden’s largest trade union group, hinted that Mona Sahlin appears set to remain as the Social Democrats’ party leader.
Walking out of a meeting of the party’s top-brass which has been going on since the start of the day, Lundby-Wedin told TT that there was no discussion of whether Sahlin should continue as party leader.
“There wasn’t anyone who said anything other than that it’s obvious that the party leaders should remain,” she told TT.
Most of the party’s regional leaders also continue to express their support for Sahlin, according to TT.
One political scientist, Li Bennich-Björkman, however, sees Sahlin’s status as “uncertain,” while another, Ulf Bjereld, said Sahlin would likely be safe in the short term, arguing that it was the party as a whole and its policies, rather than the leader, which caused the poor election performance.
“The Social Democrats failed to give shape to policies which preserve traditional Social Democratic core values like freedom, equality, and solidarity but which are still valid in the new society,” said Bjereld.
Vivian Tse, 1:48pm
The Sweden Democrats advanced throughout the country, news agency TT reported, citing a survey of all 29 parliamentary constituencies. As before, the party is most popular in the southern parts of the country, with some districts polling double digit support.
In Skåne county’s northern and eastern regions, support for the Sweden Democrats peaked at 11.2 percent. In other parts of Skåne and Blekinge, support for the party reached 9 to 10 percent. The Sweden Democrats are also popular in Malmö municipality with 8 percent.
In the rest of the country, support in Dalarna stands out in particular, where the Sweden Democrats received 7 percent of votes. Otherwise, the further north one goes in the country, the less popular the party is.
The party achieved its success despite backing in its strongest municipality, Landskrona, slipping. There, the Sweden Democrats received 22.3 percent of the votes in the last general election, a figure that dropped to 15.8 percent on Sunday night.
In five parliamentary constituencies, the Sweden Democrats missed the 4 percent threshold to enter parliament: Västerbotten, Norrbotten, Jämtland and Gotland counties and Stockholm municipality. There, the party received only 2.7 to 3.8 percent.
During the 2006 election, the situation was reversed. Then, the Sweden Democrats reached the four percent margin in only five of the 29 constituencies.
There is not yet a clear of where the party has won city at the county and municipal level, but judging by all appearances, the Sweden Democrats also achieved a breakthrough on a broad front on both levels as well.
The party’s electoral success will come at a personal price at the local level, anti-racist magazine Expo insists. The party has no representatives in at least 27 different political posts throughout Sweden. In 20 municipalities, the party does not have enough candidates.
Vivian Tse, 1:21pm
The Stockholm Stock Exchange absorbed the uncertain election result with little disruption on Monday morning, rising slightly at midday, in line with markets around the world, while the krona remained stable against both the euro and the dollar.
“It is hard to notice that there were elections. It looks if anything as if were a long weekend,” Olof Manner, Scandinavian interest director at Royal Bank of Scotland, told news agency TT. “There is a certain wait and see approach to this. However, it is not particularly nervous.”
He expects the centre-right Alliance coalition to continue to seek support from the Green Party, but could also see it trying to govern with support from various parties on various issues.
According to Manner, the Green Party’s aversive attitude towards Prime Minister Fredrik Reinfeldt’s invitation to work together is a normal part of a bargaining game.
“It goes with it. It does not change the situation,” he said.
Peter Vinthagen Simpson, 1:12pm
It is being reported that Sweden Democrat leader Jimmie Åkesson has met with the speaker of Sweden’s Riksdag, Per Westerberg.
The speaker is the leader of the house and is the Riksdag’s foremost representative. The Swedish constitution assigns the role of speaker as the highest elected office in Sweden, above the prime minister and below only the head of state, the King – who holds no formal powers.
One of the speaker’s most important tasks is to lead the negotiations when a government changes and to present candidates for prime minister.
Fredrik Reinfeldt has said that the Alliance plans to govern on, with himself as prime minister. While the speaker will give Reinfeldt the task to try to form a government, it is procedure to sound out all parliamentary party leaders to establish the likelyhood of him (or any other chosen candidate) being able to do so.
The speaker thus met with Åkesson as a matter of course, and will presumably sound out all party leaders during the course of coming days.
While Åkesson used the focus on his meeting with the speaker to demand to be contacted by the main parties, it remains unlikely that they will do so with Alliance party leaders categorically dismissing any opening for SD within, or in support of, the government.
The Green Party meanwhile has rejected early overtures from Reinfeldt to open discussions and spokesperson Maria Wetterstrand has reacted angrily to the Moderates placing responsibility of solving the issue of governance in their lap.
Comment: These opening salvoes should be seen a part of the elaborate flirtation process of forming a stable government in Sweden. While the Green Party has declared that it will not play the role of support party to the Moderates, they are likely to be open to hear what the government has to say.
The Red-Green coalition, having existed for less than two years is not as established and integrated as the Alliance and the election result indicates that it is not a successful recipe for persuading the Swedish electorate or the respective party’s suitability to govern.
Vivian Tse, 1:09pm
Although the Green Party’s spokespeople were adamant that they would not enter a discussion with the ruling Alliance to help them form a majority government on election night, spokesman Peter Eriksson seemed to have changed his tune in an interview with Sveriges Radio on Monday morning, according to a TT news agency report.
The latest developments take place as the speaker of Sweden’s parliament, the Riksdag, Per Westerberg met Sweden Democrat leader Jimmie Åkesson.
“We have to be able to converse with each other after an election result that is unclear,” Eriksson told SR’s news bulletin Ekot. “However, it is reasonable that we wait until the election results are finished. It can still change to some extent based on the votes that are counted on Wednesday.”
“Our interpretation of what [Prime Minister Fredrik] Reinfeldt says is that he says that the Alliance will continue to rule and it worries me because I think they underestimate the problems in the situation. However, we will see what he has to say,” he added.
“It is very difficult now. We have been very clear that we want a Red-Green majority after the election since our voters count on us essentially sticking to the line.”
Both Eriksson and colleague Wetterstrand hesitated to work with the Alliance even if Reinfeldt offered ministerial posts
Prime Minister Fredrik Reinfeldt has not yet made any statements on Monday. Last night, he reiterated that his party will make with the Green Party and that he hoped for a positive response.
David Landes, 12:24pm
The TT news agency reports that an openly Nazi party, Svenskarnas Parti (‘The Swedes’ Party’), has earned a spot on the local council in Grästorp, a municipality of with about 3,000 residents in western Sweden.
The party used to be called the National Socialist Front (NSF), and the 102 votes it received were enough for it to place a representative on the council.
Centre Party council chair Roger Andersson called the development “regrettable”.
David Landes, 12:16pm
The Expressen tabloid is reporting that Reinfeldt plans to ditch two ministers from the current government: financial markets minister Mats Odell and infrastructure minister Åsa Torstensson.
As both Odell’s party, the Christian Democrats, and Torstensson’s Centre Party posted lower results in 2010 than in 2006 – both dropping about one percent, it follows that the two smallest parties in the Alliance will lose a minister post, the paper reports, citing sources close to the prime minister
Comment: freeing up the infrastructure minister post may also be part of Reinfeldt’s strategy to reach out to the Greens, who see infrastructure spending as a key tool in promoting more eco-friendly transit options. While no formal offer has been mentioned, it’s an open question as to whether the Green’s Maria Wetterstrand or Peter Eriksson would sit comfortably as ministers in a centre-right government.
Peter Vinthagen Simpson, 11:50am
Lena Sundström, who is a journalist, commentator and author of a book analysing the advance of the Danish People’s Party, argues that the success of the Sweden Democrats needs to be put into perspective.
“I don’t think their success is due to the reluctance of the mainstream parties to talk about the superiority of the white race,” Sundström told TV4 this morning and warned on the one hand for allowing a normalisation of the type of argumentation that the Sweden Democrats (SD) adopt, and on the other of a media reluctance to fully subject SD to the same inspection as for the mainstream parties.
Sundström brings up the example of the news that 50 people with connections to the white power movement were on the SD municipal lists, and the media were happy to accept a dismissal from SD youth leader Erik Almqvist that is was “unimportant”.
“This would never have been accepted from the mainstream parties,” Sundström observed.
Peter Vinthagen Simpson, 11:36am
SNS – an independent network of leading decision makers – is holding a half day seminar to analyse the election.
Olof Pettersson, political scientist and SNS advisor, spoke about the dramatic shift that the election signifies for Swedish politics – with the decline of the Social Democrats and the retention of power by the centre-right. The Social Democrats have, for the first time in a century, become just another party, he argued.
He forecast that the Sweden Democrats, as a party which has build up its organisation over several election campaigns, are here to stay if the mainstream parties do not begin to take the issues that they raise seriously.
Bert Karlsson, who was one of the leaders of Ny Demokrati – the last anti-immigrant party that had a brief dalliance in parliament after the 1991 election – speaking on SVT on Sunday argued in the same vein when he observed that the Liberal Party has tried but has been treated with suspicion as a result.
David Landes, 11:13 a.m.
It’s Monday morning and Sweden is waking up to a new political dawn. The previously unquestioned dominance of the Social Democrats appears to be over for good. In addition, the far-right, anti-immigrant Sweden Democrats are set to take 20 of 349 seats in the Riksdag, legitimizing a new and controversial voice in Swedish politics.
And if that weren’t enough, the election results yielded no clear governing majority, leaving Sweden in a state of parliamentary uncertainty and extended the drama of an election that has already provided its share of excitement and intrigue.
Moderate Party leader, who is charged with forming a government, has signaled he wants to begin talks with the Green Party, but remains vague about how those discussions may proceed.
His overtures have so far received a cold reception from Green Party leaders Maria Wetterstrand and Peter Eriksson, but it remains to be seen if they can be wooed to join forces with the center-right in order to isolate the Sweden Democrats.
And the Social Democrats are holed up in a crisis meeting at their party headquarters on Sveavägen in downtown Stockholm.
“We’re going to discuss the election results and the chaos in the Riksdag,” party leaders Mona Sahlin told the TT news agency.
So stay tuned as Local journalists Peter Vinthagen Simpson, Vivian Tse, and myself work to keep you abreast of the day’s developments.