Ballot irregularities keep Sweden on edge

Sweden’s political landscape remained unsettled on Thursday following reports of ballot irregularities in several parts of the country.

Ballot irregularities keep Sweden on edge
Ballot counting in Gothenburg has so far been problem-free

Following the first count of all the votes, including advance and overseas postal votes, the Alliance remained 297 votes shy of achieving a majority of votes cast.

According to preliminary results, the four centre-right Alliance parties received 2,929,771 votes, while the three centre-left parties of the Red-Green coalition received 2,591,827.

In addition, 338,241 ballots were case for the Sweden Democrats.

But a number of ballot counting irregularities have been revealed which could yet tip the election results.

In Värmland around 50 votes were classified as invalid for reasons that remain unclear. And when the municipality of Arvika, located in Värmland county, dropped off its ballots to the county administrative board in Karlstad, a stack of loose ballots which were declared invalid also turned up, along with a list of explanations for the nullifications.

However election official Gith Nilsson is critical of some of the explanations.

“Certain reasons are certainly correct there are a number which give me pause,” she told the TT news agency.

“For example, one of the reasons was that the ballot envelope wasn’t fully sealed, and I don’t think that’s sufficient reason to disqualify a ballot.”

The disqualified votes could potentially sway the final election results, as the Alliance missed a seat in the Värmland voting district by just seven votes.

“Because the municipality didn’t have them in the container, we can’t include them in the election results, forcing us to disqualify them because only ballots inside the container can be counted,” said Nilsson, who added she’s unsure what will happen next.

“There’s a possibility to contest the results, but then one has to turn to the Election Review Board (Valprövningsnämnden).”

The Review Board can nullify an election and arrange new elections if mistakes were made that are considered to have affected the outcome. Anyone wishing to appeal something about the Riksdag vote has ten days to file a complaint with the Board.

Ballot counting issues have also occurred in other locations around Sweden, according to the Expressen newspaper.

Among them include 200 uncounted advance ballots in Halmstad municipality in western Sweden.

“There were approximately 200 advance ballots which we didn’t deliver to the right municipality at the right time,” Halmstad election committee chair Lars-Erik Blank told the newspaper.

The municipality was subsequently told by the county administrative board to not count 200 votes and instead file them away.

According to preliminary figures, Sweden’s voter participation increased to 84.6 percent in the 2010 elections, compared with 82 percent in 2006.

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Sweden’s famous white elk ‘not seen since January’

A rare white elk which won global fame last year has mysteriously vanished from its stomping ground in Värmland, western Sweden, with no sightings by locals since January.

Sweden's famous white elk 'not seen since January'
A white elk photographed in Värmland in July. Photo: Tommy Pedersen/TT
“People here in Värmland have rung me and said they haven’t seen him since the winter,” Ulf Jonasson, whose documentary about the elk was released last year, told The Local. 
“I’ve now been here a few days, looking around his favourite places, and I’m a little bit worried that maybe something has happened to him.” 
Johansson’s documentary, ‘The White King of the Forest’, has been watched by 750,000 people since it was aired on Sweden's state broadcaster SVT this June. 
The elk achieved viral fame when Hans Nilsson, a city councillor from Eda, one of the villages frequented by the elk, filmed it last August and uploaded his film on Facebook. 
The clip was picked up by BBC and MSN and shared thousands of times on social media. 


But long before Nilsson's clip, Jonasson had been tracking and following the stately animal for a long-term nature documentary, the success of which he put down to Ferdinand’s size and attractive personality. 
“I called him Ferdinand, because he’s like the bull Ferdinand in the Disney film: he’s very gentle and calm, and not so frightened, and he’s big, he’s majestic, so he’s really king of the forest up here. There’s no animal in the world quite like this.” 
Jonasson said it was not unusual for him not to be able to find Ferdinand immediately.  
“Sometimes I could follow him for several days, without a problem, but then it could go weeks or sometimes a month before I found him again.” 
But whenever he had not been able to find Ferdinand in the past, he said, he had always heard from others who had recently spotted him, so he finds his current absence worrying. 
“There are a number of villages up here, and there people pretty see him pretty regularly, and they haven’t seen him since January, he said.  “I followed him for four years, and so I have an emotional connection, naturally.”

Jonasson speculated that Ferdinand could have been killed by wolves, who hunt elk in packs, or else fallen through this year’s unusually soft ice and drowned in a lake. 
“But I hope he hasn’t hurt himself and that he will pop up somewhere again,” he said. 
Jonasson intends to keep searching for a few more days before returning north to his home in Jämtland.