Held every four years and with generally low turnouts, the elections asks the 5.2 million members of the Church of Sweden to vote for their representatives on church councils and the church assembly.
A push by the anti-immigration Sweden Democrats (SD) to make gains appeared to encourage more members to use their vote this year, according to the Social Democrat spokesperson.
“I think it became a clear conflict and the election was perceived as relevant,” Jesper Eneroth noted.
SD made the biggest gains in vote share according to preliminary results, increasing from six to 9.2 percent.
“It became a clear choice between us who stand for faith and tradition, as we see it, and the Social Democrats who have evolved into more of a left-liberal opinion-former,” SD church policy spokesperson Aron Emilsson argued.
The Social Democrats received the largest share of the votes (30.5 percent), followed by independents with no party political allegiance (17.2 percent). The Centre Party increased from 11.9 to 13.9 percent.
Social Democrat Eneroth was pleased with the result:
“It's a sigh of relief for many members. We have a satisfactory majority for an open church and must work to make the most of the engagement in social work, aid and charity.”
18.2 percent of members used their vote, something that hasn’t happened since 1950. SD increased their budget 10 times in the hope of doubling their results from the last election in 2013.
Maria Reihs, who voted in Stockholm, said the anti-immigration party’s push encouraged more people than usual to turn out.
“Both those who vote for SD, and those who vote to make sure they don't get much power. It feels crazy that the church, which is the last safe place for people, should suddenly not take in people who need protection and help.”