- Reinfeldt has stepped down as prime minister and Moderate leader
- Social Democrats are largest party, Löfven set for PM
- Alliance has lost power
- Sweden Democrats are 3rd largest party
- New government may be "weak" and "tricky"
- Feminist party fails to win first seat
01:02 James Savage at the Social Democrats' party
The votes are counted, Reinfeldt has conceded defeat after eight years as prime minister and Stefan Löfven is set to be Sweden's new leader. It's said that all political careers end in failure – and the Moderates' one-time saviour is no exception.
That much is certain. Also certain is that 13 percent of Swedes voted for a party with roots in the neo-Nazi movement.
Jimmie Åkesson rejoices. Photo: TT
Many other things are up in the air. Stefan Löfven has said during the entire campaign that he wants to cooperate with the smaller centre-right parties. They, so far, have refused to countenance this.
Many observers expect them to change their positions (and possibly their leaders too). But the form that any cooperation takes will be important for both sides.
Both the Centre Party and the Liberals are allergic to the former communist Left Party, so will Stefan Löfven try to leave Jonas Sjöstedt in the cold? They will also be afraid of doing anything that allows the Social Democrats to regain their former status as the semi-permanent governing party, playing small parties off against each other.
Apart from the government question, all parties will be looking very long and hard at how the Sweden Democrats could reach such heights. This is particularly true of the Moderates, who have lost more voters than anyone else to the anti-immigrant populists.
We will start looking for answers to these questions tomorrow. For now the main certainty in Swedish politics is that very little is certain.
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00:33. Paul O'Mahony at the Greens:
Here's how the Green contingent reacted to Stefan Löfven's promise not to let the Sweden Democrats within a sniff of government.
00:26 James Savage, at the Social Democrats, says the DJ is playing ‘Celebrate’.
They’re back in power after eight years in the wilderness, so they can be forgiven feelings of elation.
Tomorrow, though, they’re going to wake up to one hell of a hangover.
This victory comes with a result just 0.6 points higher than their last result – described by many as a ‘catastrophe’. Indeed, the combined support for the Social Democrats, Greens and Left Party is just 43 percent. In the last Social Democratic government, the Social Democrats alone scored 39 percent.
The Liberals and the Centre Party are going to feel Löfven’s warm breath down their necks tomorrow:
“All parties have a responsibility now. I’ll talk to other parties. My hand is outstretched. I'll talk to the Greens, but also to other parties,” he said.
Indeed, without them, it’s hard to see how he’ll get anything like a stable majority.
00:15 Löfven told SVT he looked forward to cooperation with the Greens, the Left Party, the Centre Party, and the Liberals.
00:09 "Tonight Sweden has decided – a change is needed. I am ready to probe the possibilities for creating a new government in Sweden," Stefan Löfven announced just after midnight.
Löfven added that the Greens were his natural choice of partner in forming a government, but that he would reach out a hand to the other parties as well. Except for one:
"Even if the Sweden Democrats had even higher numbers, we would not cooperate with them," the new leader of Sweden decared, and was met with cheers.
Löfven also expressed his respect and gratitude for Reinfeldt.
00:02 Löfven has arrived and is beginning his speech.
00:00 Paul O'Mahony at the Greens:
I spoke to Gustav Fridolin
, one of the Green Party’s two co-leaders, at the end of a disappointing evening for a party that had envisaged itself becoming Sweden’s third political force.
"We didn’t get the figures that we’d hoped for," Fridolin said. "We didn’t succeed in getting the environmental issue at the top of the agenda but we have done very hard work and we are ready to form a new government."
"Swedes have clearly voted for a new government and have voted to end the era of Fredrik Reinfeldt. This gives us a duty to do what we can to actually form a government that tackles climate change, that does what it can to change the situation in Swedish schools and for gender equality," he said.
23:55 Sweden is anxiously awaiting Löfven's speech.
23:32 Oliver Gee just had front row as Fredrik Reinfeldt stepped down.
It seemed like there were tears in his eyes as he stepped down after eight years as both prime minister and party leader.
He thanked the Swedish public for the "hugs, selfies, and support" during his campaign, and paid specific thanks to party secretary Kent Persson and Finance Minister Anders Borg.
"The election is over. Sweden has made its decision. And I will hand in my notice tomorrow. All these years under the Alliance have been fantastic," he told the crowd.
He left no clues as to who would take his place, and left to a rousing applause.
23:25 Oliver Gee at the Moderates:
Reinfeldt will resign as prime minister tomorrow, and will step down from party leadership in the spring.
23:17 Reinfeldt has announced that he would be stepping down and would not fight for the position of prime minister for another term – and would also be leaving his post as Moderate party leader.
23:10 Peter Vinthagen at the Feminist party: The party is still rocking here but the reality has dawned that there will be no seats in parliament for Fi.
Gudrun Schyman brought this reality to bear when she began her speech, conceding that the party would fall short of the threshold for parliamentary seats.
"I think we should recognize that we are just a little bit disappointed," she said.
Schyman emphasized that the Fi project is long term and noted that the party had grown to over 20,000 members and from 0.4 percent in 2010 to over 3 percent in 2014.
"Now we will have party funding, now we will have time to build and to lay a stable basis for the biggest democratic breakthrough in modern times."
Schyman concluded by declaring that Fi ‘won’t do like other parties, those who want to crush, close and destroy’.
"We believe that love is the strongest force for change," she said.
23:03 Maddy Savage at the Sweden Democrats: The Sweden Democrats have worked hard to attract young voters, and their election night party is packed with young, blonde candidates dressed in what look like shiny new suits or fitted dresses.
I just asked Joakim Isheden, who is on the Board of Directors for the party's youth wing, if he thought the result would change Sweden's global image.
"Yes but in a good way," he told me. "We have a reputation for accepting more immigrants than anywhere else in Europe. I think this result will show other countries that it is time for them to change too. We just can't keep going in the same direction."
Young voters at the SD party event.
22:56 RECAP: Political scientist Nick Aylott told The Local that the results were expected – the three left-wing parties eclipsed the Alliance. The Alliance has promised to give up power in this scenario.
However, the new government does not look like it will be a particularly strong one, Aylott said.
The Social Democrats and the Greens can't go it alone, as much as they would like to.
"They may need at least two other parties to be sure of getting legislation through," Aylott said. "And that may be tricky."
Aylott added that all of the current parliamentary parties seemed disappointed with their numbers – with one exception.
"The far-right Sweden Democrats appear to have more than doubled their score," Aylott remarked.
"The other parties will try desperately to continue the Sweden Democrats' isolation. But that will now be a real challenge, and will create acute dilemmas for several parties."
22:50 Sweden Democrat leader Jimmie Åkesson told SVT he's not worried about the other parties blocking his influence.
"We are going to be a powerful kingmaker. They can't stop us."
Åkesson said that the only way for the other parties to effectively shut off the Sweden Democrats from influence would be for the Social Democrats and Moderate to cooperate – which would not happen.
22:40 James Savage at the Social Democrats party:
Thomas Bodström, former justice minister for the Social Democrats, insisted that the centre-right parties would cooperate with Stefan Löfven:
"In government they’ve had a very strong alliance, but once they’re in opposition they’ll have a much weaker position. The important thing is that they start working together on budgetary questions. We’ve always had minority governments – we’re used to it."
Meanwhile, the tune at the Moderates is a sad one:
22:28 RECAP: About 90 percent of districts are done counting. And it seems clear that a red-green goverment will take over tomorrow – but it won't be a strong one.
The Social Democrat party has scored 31.1 percent of voter support, significantly more than any other party. The Moderates came in at second with 23.1 percent of support so far, but the red-greens are still bigger than the Alliance.
The Sweden Democrats have become Sweden's third largest party, with 13 percent of voter support by current estimations.
The Green Party has dropped to 6.8 percent, with the Left Party at 5.7.
Exit polls earlier in the evening showed that the Feminists may just barely make it into parliament – but now the forecast is bleak. The party has just 3.1 percent of voter support so far.
The Feminist party may not make it into Riksdagen (parliament) after all – but the party is still positive. Supporters gathered and sang Pharell William's "Happy", in a recap of party leader Gudrun Schyman's appearance
last night with the singer.
22:19 Maddy Savage at the Sweden Democrats:
22:14 Paul O'Mahony at the Greens:
Ellen Kasimir, an election coordinator with the Young Greens, was struggling to come to terms with the fact that the Sweden Democrats were about to become Sweden’s third-largest party.
"I’m sad, I’m very sad. And I don’t think the Feminists will get in, which is why the result is devastating.
"It feels very sad that four percent of votes that I sympathize with might not have any influence. It just feels terrible that the racists actually get power now and will be the third biggest party in Sweden."
It’s a far cry from the EU Parliament elections in May, when the Greens were the second-biggest party, ahead of the Moderates, with 15.4 percent.
"It feels very weird that our result has dropped so much between the EU election in May and now in September," said Kasimir.
22:08 SVT's election surveys have revealed that one of three voters who chose Sweden Democrats in this election voted for the Moderates back in 2010. The party had the strongest support in Jimmie Åkesson's hometown.
In addition, two-thirds of Feminist party supporters came previously from the Green Party and the Left Party – possibly accountinig for the Greens' losses.
22:00 SVT's prognosis predicts that the Feminists will not get into parliament, in contrast to the results from the exit poll. With 3,337 districts of 5,837 counted, the party has received 3.2 percent – not the required 4.
21:57 James Savage at the Social Democrats party: Will this election result make it hard to govern Sweden? Former Social Democratic minister Ylva Johansson thinks not:
"I’ve been in three Social Democratic governments, and we’ve managed to govern in difficult parliamentary situations before," Johansson said.
"It’s important to get a new prime minister, and one who will seek cross-block solutions in important questions about the future."
Ylva Johansson is currently Social Democrat spokesperson on gender equality and labour market issues. I asked her what she made of the Feminists' apparent success:
"I think that a large proportions of those who have voted for the Social Democrats have done it because of feminism, like those who voted for Fi and for other parties too."
Concerns over public services were the other big winner for the left-wing parties, she says:
"People have had tax cuts, but people also think ‘What am I going to do with my 200 kronor when mum doesn’t get her old age care, when healthcare doesn’t work, the trains don’t go."
21:55 Half of the voting districts have finished counting. Here are the results so far, as reported here in Aftonbladet's live count:
21:51 Paul O'Mahony at the Greens: We caught up with two Young Greens, Philadelphia Bako and Sandra Turesson, shortly after the exit poll results were announced. The Greens got a lower-than-expected 7.1 percent.
"I just felt empty," said Philadelphia Bako.
"The day before yesterday I watched Jimmie Åkesson, the party leader for the Sweden Democrats. When he was asked about all the children coming here as immigrants, he didn’t even care that they were children; he said: they’re just immigrants. I hate that they represent Sweden internationally."
Sandra Turesson was equally dejected but saw a silver lining in the form of Feminist Initiative.
"I felt a deep sadness that a clearly racist party can get more votes than a humane party that stands up for equal rights for everyone," she said. "I believe and sincerely hope that Feminist Initiative will get in. I wasn’t at all prepared for our result being so low. It came as a shock."
Counting in 1,198 of 5,837 voting districts has been completed.You can choose your county and follow the progress at Expressen
with information in English, Arabic, Spanish, and Swedish.
So far results seem mostly in line with the exit poll.
21:25 Oliver Gee has just spoken with Elisabeth Svantesson at the Moderates' party.
She added: "Sweden's employment is so strong right now, I'm very concerned it will all come to an end."
Oliver Gee spoke with Foreign Minister Carl Bildt earlier during the evening. The minister expressed concern over the Sweden Democrats' role as kingmaker, and said that the Alliance's apparent defeat may result in a difficult situation in parliament.
"The parliamentary situation will be rather confusing, he said with a chuckle. "We have to play the hands that the electorate gives us."
21:23 Sweden's Feminist party, Fi, is on the edge of glory – and the edge of parliament. An exit poll showed the party at 4 percent of voter support, which is the limit for seats.
The Local’s Peter Vinthagen Simpson has spoken to Claes Decker, known as the wealthy financier who bank-rolled the first Fi election campaign in 2006.
"It is fantastic. It is a tightrope whether we come in or not, but we will get in in Stockholm, Gothenburg, Malmö, Umeå, Simrishamn and will get party support," Decker said.
"This is a fantastic platform for the election 2018. We can’t be stopped."
Decker grabbed the headlines when he donated money to the party in 2005. He has since been followed by donors such as Abba Benny Andersson. Decker says that this time around Fi has made the most of its paltry funds.
Read about the Feminist party's policies
"We can’t be everywhere all the time as we don’t have the resources. We have shown that with very small means we can achieve a lot."
21:16 Paul O'Mahony at the Greens: Green Party members are crushed.
A premilinary result of 7.1 percent is way below expectations. People at the election party have described their "deep sadness" and "devastation" at a score that looks like coming in below their 2010 result.
They are particulary upset that their nemesis, the Sweden Democrats, seem set to finish the election at least three point ahead of them. A group of Young Greens said it was shameful that ”open racists” had scored higher than them.
People are puting on a brave face, but not even the very decent reggae band currently on stage can lift the gloom.
Buffet watch: Falafel and pita bread not cheering anyone up.
21:11 Despite dramatic numbers from the exit poll, Social Democrat MP Anders Ygeman says the result is "still up in the air."
"The four centre-right parties have had their worst-ever election, at least since we got a unicameral parliament," he told The Local's James Savage.
He described the projections for the Social Democrats as "an OK result", and pointed out that the result seemed to be up slightly from 2010 (by 0.4 percentage points according to the SVT poll).
He said it was hard to draw conclusions from the polls as to whether the Feminists will get in. "It’s such a small margin."
"Fi have said they’ll support us, so we should welcome that – I’m not going to challenge them on that."
20:58 The Local's Maddy Savage has spoken with Sweden Democrat Björn Söder about the result of the exit poll – and the party's many scandals. Listen here:
20:55 The Moderate party – and the Alliance – looks set to admit defeat.
"We Moderates set our sights high, but more than anything the Alliance was aiming to be reelected. And we're not going to succeed with that," Moderate party secretary Kent Persson told Aftonbladet.
20:46 Ballots are being counted and the anticipation and tension tangible. It looks like the Feminist party might make it into parliament – but the Sweden Democrats will also have a strong role.
Peter Vinthagen is at the Feminist party event on Södermalm. He spoke with Viktoria Kawesa, number 3 on Fi’s Riksdag list to gauge her reaction on the exit poll and the secrets behind Fi’s rise.
"We expect to get in," Kawesa said. "We are just wondering how high we are going to go."'
Fi supporters celebrating the exit poll results
Kawesa, who has profiled her campaign on the fight against racism in general and afrophobia in particular, identified anti-racism as the key issue behind the upswing for Fi.
"I think the biggest thing is SD. That is the main reason why lots of young people are joining Fi. We are the clearest on racism issues and the only ones who have warned of the danger of the Sweden Democrats."
20:37 Managing editor James Savage is at the Social Democrats' election party. Former Social Democrat minister Björn Rosengren told him he was hoping for the Feminists to get in, to level out the power of the Sweden Democrats – who may now be Sweden's third largest party.
"The problem is that the Sweden Democrats have right-wing policies, so it’ll be difficult [for the Red-Greens] in parliament," Rosengren said. "So now we’re hoping that the Feminists get in, because then it will be much easier."
He dismissed talk of the Feminists being hard for the Social Democrats to manage:
"If Fi gets get in we’ll manage it pretty easily. There’ll be bigger problems with the Greens, regarding Bromma Airport [which the Greens want to shut], and the Stockholm bypass [which the Greens don’t want to build]."
It looks like Social Democrat Stefan Löfven is set to become Sweden's new prime minister. In an exit poll by SVT his party scored 31.1 percent of voter support – just about a record low win
for them, but still a solid win above the Moderates at 22.2 percent.
Curious about the Social Democrats' policies? Read The Local's guide here.
20:18 Oliver Gee just spoke with Sweden's Defence Minister Karin Enström just minutes after an exit poll was released. The poll results looked bleak for the Alliance, but the real numbers are yet to be released.
"This is all really exciting," Enström said. "But just like everyone else, I'm waiting for the real results. Things are very even – this is a thriller."
She took the chance to take a dig at the red-greens, too.
"Their biggest weakness is that they aren't agreeing. In my domain, defence, they're disagreeing on fundamental issues and this is worrying."
20:09 The Greens had lower results, scoring 7.1 percent in the exit poll.
20:06 If the numbers from the exit poll hold, then the red-greens will have a new government – and the Sweden Democrats are now Sweden's third largest party, scoring 10.5 percent of the vote.
20:04 Polls have now closed.
An initial exit poll has been released, and while the numbers are not certain, it may be a good indicator. The poll shows the red-greens in the lead – signifcantly.
19:59 The Local's Oliver Gee just spoke with Foreign Minister and Moderate Carl Bildt.
I asked him about his thoughts on the red-greens – what are their weaknesses?
"They're disunited on quite a number of important topics, be that economic policy or be that foreign policy. They can gloss over that to some extent, but governence is a day to day business, and sooner or later those fissures will be there. And that's sort of worrying, irrespective of the contents of their policies," he said.
19:50 Paul O'Mahony at the Greens: The Green Party had Gangnam Style pumping out of the speakers just as I arived at their election-night event a few minutes ago. But will they be dancing later?
The event is being held at Kägelbanan, a beatiful venue that was once a bowling alley when it opened 125 years ago but is now mostly used for rock concerts.
The press centre is poky but at least has the merit of Wi-Fi, a privilege denied to Maddy Savage over at the Sweden Democrats.
It was full inthe press room five minutes ago but I suspect there’s been a dash to the buffet and away from the wheat biscuits on offer in here. These Swedish journos clearly know what they’re doing.
19:40 James Savage at the Social Democrats party: The atmosphere is expectant at the Social Democrats’ party in the Waterfront Centre in central Stockholm.
Stefan Löfven arrived a few minutes ago and the party's faithful are holding their thumbs (if they were Anglo-Saxons they’d be crossing their fingers) as they wait for the exit poll.
I caught up with Mikael Damberg, who leads the party's parliamentary work (in the place of Stefan Löfven, who isn't an MP). I put to him that the party looked likely to win on a record low percentage of the vote:
"We have nine parties competing and getting in, so it’s a different situation from back in the day with 5 parties. But if we get a good election result and the conservatives fall apart then there will be one power still in Swedish politics, and that’s the Social Democrats."
19:36 With just half an hour to go to before the main exit poll comes in, Feminist party leader Gudrun Schyman warned that "people like to claim that they vote Fi" and warned against disappointment.
"Remember the EU election," she said. "We should drag off a little so that we don’t get disappointed later."
Still, the atmosphere remained upbeat, Peter Vinthagen reports – more like a house party than an election party.
19:22 It's no secret that immigration is a hot topic for the Sweden Democrats, but our editor Maddy Savage has encountered something a bit unusual.
Maddy Savage at the Sweden Democrats: Candidate Mårten Hjärtenfalk has got people talking by wearing a Scottish kilt at the party's election night gathering.
"The Sweden Democrats can make our country better by pushing to leave the EU and strengthen the country's defence," Hjärtenfalk told me.
"I have Scottish heritage and so I am also here supporting the campaign for independence. Scotland can learn a lot from Scandinavia, for example Sweden's welfare system, which the Sweden Democrats are working to make even better. Scotland has the oil and it is a beautiful country that could do more to promote tourism. "
19:16 Foreign Minister Carl Bildt, who was prime minister himself back in the early 1990s, has arrived at the Moderates party. Oliver Gee is on the scene:
19:14 For those just joining us, we've got journalists reporting from election parties all across Stockholm.
Oliver Gee just left the Left Party, where he spoke with leader Jonas Sjöstedt.
The Left Party has much less support than the Social Democrats or Green Party, but still hopes to take part in a red-green government. Oliver Gee asked Sjöstedt about cooperation with the Feminists, if they should get in.
"If they get it, it means we have a new situation in parliament. I'm not totally clear how they will act, but I'm sure that they won't support a right-wing government," he explained.
19:04 Maddy Savage has arrived at the Sweden Democrat party event on Djurgården, Stockholm. Media are permitted – but not exactly welcomed.
19:02 Oliver Gee says: Ducking into the Left Party gathering, I found party leader Jonas Sjöstedt finishing up his dinner. I asked how he was feeling.
"I feel full of expectations, I think we'll have a new government and new prime minister, and I hope that we'll have a stronger left wing as well," he said.
"But of course everything is still undecided. We'll have to wait and see."
Things remain cloudy about the Left's place in a red-green coalition, but Sjöstedt added that if there's a red-green majority tonight, there's "absolutely a very good possibility" that his party will be in government.
Read about the Left Party here
Feminist party leader Gudrun Schyman has arrived on Södermalm. The Local's Peter Vinthagen is at the scene. This could be a make-or-break night for the party, which could finally make it over the 4 percent marker to enter parliament. Read about their key goals and policies here
18:36 It looks like we may have some delays tonight. Polls in Gothenburg have just announced they have to extend their hours, due to "chaotic queues".
18:19 Aftonbladet has just reported that Nazis have forced their way in to multiple voting locations in southern Stockholm. Similar "attacks" have occurred throughout the day, and neo-Nazi organization the Swedish Resistance Movement (Svenskamotståndsrörelsen) has taken credit.
In once instance the three Nazis reportedly threw confetti to interrupt voters. A colourful interlude indeed.
Our team members are on their way to the various parties now. You can read their analyses here
, with background about the parties and what we expect to happen.
18:00 The Local's Maddy Savage is now on the way to the Sweden Democrat's election party in Stockholm. Reports have just come in that the party has banned all media from their party in Malmö, southern Sweden.
Across the country the Sweden Democrats have blocked newspaper Expressen from its election parties, turning the tables and accusing the paper of working with extremist organizations.
Others say it's just the Sweden Democrats doing that thing they do:
In just over two hours, polls will close. Reports of voting fraud have come in from several cities. The Green Party's voter slips had mysteriously vanished from school voting sites in the town of Stöde, Dagens Nyheter
According to the election board various parties have been affected at various locations, with no one party being singled out.
17:35 The Local's Paul O’Mahony says: I’ll be heading to the Green Party event tonight, where emotional turmoil is almost guaranteed.
The big story as far as the Greens
are concerned is the strong likelihood they’ll form part of a coalition government for the first time in their 33-year history.
A recent dip in the polls might rankle somewhat, but the prospect of cabinet posts will probably keep the mood buoyant at the Kägelbanan venue on the Stockholm island of Södermalm.
"Just about everything is interesting and exciting tonight. Almost every party score will make a difference in some way," he added.