Swedish election LATEST: ‘Wednesday count’ ongoing after cliffhanger vote

The 'Wednesday count' of late-arriving advance and overseas votes has begun, with just over 100 districts counted by 3pm. Experts believe the odds are against the count keeping Prime Minister Magdalena Andersson in power after Sunday's tight election.

Swedish election LATEST: 'Wednesday count' ongoing after cliffhanger vote
The counting of late and overseas votes begins on Wednesday at Stockholm's City Hall. Photo: Pontus Lundahl/ TT/

Main points:

  • Right-wing and far-right bloc in position to take power
  • Conservative Moderates leader credited with 175 of 349 seats in parliament.
  • Far-right Sweden Democrats credited with 20.6 percent of votes
  • Sweden Democrat, Christian Democrat, and Liberal leaders hold ‘constructive’ talks at Moderate HQ
  • Wednesday count of late and overseas voting finished in 100 districts. Election Authority expects result on Wednesday evening. 

With 95 percent of votes counted on Monday, the right-wing led by conservative Moderates leader Ulf Kristersson was credited with an absolute majority of 175 of 349 seats in parliament, based on a 47,000 vote lead. Andersson’s left bloc trailed with 174 mandates. 

READ ALSO: Why we might have to wait until Thursday for Sweden’s final election result

With the vote deemed too close to call, Sweden’s Election Authority said on Tuesday evening it expected a final result by the end of Wednesday, when the 200,000 to 250,000 last ballots from abroad and from advance voting have been counted.

By 3pm on Wednesday, the first 100 districts had been counted without any mandates shifting between Sweden’s eight parties. 

Many experts in Sweden believe the Wednesday count is unlikely to change the result of the election, as happened in 1979, when overseas voters ousted Swedish Prime Minister Olof Palme. On Monday, Anders Lindberg, leader writer on the Aftonbladet said it appeared “impossible for the left to win because the votes from abroad are… usually in favour of the right”.

But Maria Solevid, who carried out a survey of Swedish overseas voters in 2014 which indicated that they skewed towards the Moderate Party and away from the Social Democrats, said the evidence from past elections did not point towards a right-wing shift. 

“There is no systematic pattern that supports the idea that the votes that are added have a right-wing tendency,” she told The Local. “We cannot say whether there will be any shift, and we cannot predict how the shift would look like, or say that it will always be to the right.”

READ ALSO: Do late-counted votes always skew right in Sweden?

Prime Minister Andersson, 55, has refused to throw in the towel just yet.

“We’re not going to have a final result tonight”, she told supporters late Sunday as her party was seen posting a strong result of around 30 percent of votes.

She called on Swedes to “have patience” and “let democracy run its course”.

Kristersson, who vowed during the campaign to crack down on law and order amid soaring crime rates, said late Sunday he was “ready to build a new and strong government” if the results were confirmed.

Early talks 

The election’s big winner was the anti-immigration, nationalist Sweden Democrats party, which was credited on Sunday with 20.7 percent of votes, making it the biggest party on the right and the second biggest in the country behind the Social Democrats. This had dropped to 20.6 percent by 3pm on Wednesday.

The party’s success was the only reason why right bloc — made up of the Sweden Democrats, Moderates, Christian Democrats and Liberals — won a larger 49.8 percent of votes. By 3pm on Wednesday this had decreased very slightly to 49.7 percent.

The left, comprised of the Social Democrats, the Left, the Greens and the Centre parties, were meanwhile credited with 48.8 percent, trailing by around 47,000 votes out of 7.8 million eligible voters.

At 3pm on Wednesday, the left bloc had a tiny increase of 0.1 percent, putting it on 48.8 percent of the vote.

Jimmie Åkesson, the far-right party’s leader began early talks with Kristersson over lunch at the Moderate Party’s offices in Stockholm’s Gamla Stan earlier this week, but would not be drawn on what, if any, discussions were had. 

“I’m going to eat lunch,” he told the Aftonbladet newspaper as he was met on the way to the meeting. “I don’t think who I’m going to eat lunch with is of public interest right now. When we have something to say, we’ll say it.” 

Liberal Party leader Johan Pehrson and the Christian Democrat leader Ebba Busch also visited the Moderate Party offices later in the afternoon. 

“This is a discussion which is being carried out in an extremely constructive spirit, and also respecting the fact that we do not yet have an election result,” said Gunnar Strömmar, the Moderates’ General Secretary. “If it turns out that there’s a majority for a change in government, this is a process which must be allowed to take time.”

READ ALSO: Sweden elects – Who exactly did Sweden elect?

Tensions on the right

The right-wing bloc is rife with internal divisions, and Kristersson could struggle to form a stable coalition government.

The Liberals have opposed the idea of the Sweden Democrats being given ministerial posts, and would prefer for them to remain in the background providing informal support in parliament.

Åkesson has previously insisted his party sit in government, or else he will present a long list of costly demands in exchange for his support.

That could be too much for the Liberals to stomach.

“It would suffice for one of the Liberal party’s far-right-critical MPs to dissent for Ulf Kristersson’s government to find itself in serious trouble,” Dagens Nyheter wrote on Monday.

Political analyst Ulf Bjereld agreed.

A Kristersson-led government “will have to deal with very strong internal tensions and some Liberals will demand that they start to cooperate with the Social Democrats instead”, he told AFP.

The Sweden Democrats “have their roots in neo-Nazism and on the other side the Liberals stand for everything the Sweden Democrats don’t,” he added.

Analysts stressed Sweden was in need of political stability amid a busy schedule in the coming months.

The country faces a looming economic crisis, is in the midst of a historic and delicate Nato application process, and is due to take over the EU presidency in 2023.

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Sweden Elects: New finance minister under fire after first long interview

In our weekly Sweden Elects newsletter, The Local's editor Emma Löfgren explains the key events to keep an eye on in Swedish politics this week.

Sweden Elects: New finance minister under fire after first long interview


Elisabeth Svantesson has given her first long interview as finance minister, speaking to the Svenska Dagbladet daily just days after she presented her first budget on behalf of Sweden’s new, right-wing government.

The government has already faced accusations of deprioritising the climate crisis, and Svantesson conceded in the interview that its planned investment in nuclear power (which is a low-emission source of energy, but takes time to develop, so it pays off only in the long run) would also make it difficult to reach Sweden’s climate targets within the next decade.

Asked what will happen if Sweden does not meet its Agenda 2030 target, the sustainable development targets agreed by the United Nations, by that year, she said: “It would mean that we don’t meet the targets. If we don’t we don’t, but our ambition is to steer towards that goal.”

That quote, which was perceived as far more laissez-faire than the situation warrants, was met with criticism from the opposition.

“I’m astounded at how you sign agreements and vote for legislation in parliament only to ignore it when you feel like it,” said Green Party leader Per Bolund.

The Social Democrats’ former finance minister Mikael Damberg gave a diplomatic-or-patronising answer (a school of conflict avoidance that can be perfected only by a party that’s more used to being in power than not being in power) and guessed that Svantesson had perhaps not meant it like that. “Svantesson has had a lot to do this week, maybe she’s tired.”

Speaking of interviews, one Swedish newsroom has not yet been getting them, at least not with senior ministers. One of public broadcaster SVT’s top political interviewers, Anders Holmberg, points out that all four right-wing party leaders and several ministers have declined to appear on his “30 minuter”, a show famous for putting hard-hitting questions to politicians and senior decision-makers. It’s of course not mandatory to say yes to all interviews even as a politician, but it’s an unusual move.

It’s interesting that Bolund tried to attack Svantesson specifically on not following through on commitments. This has been a recurring piece of criticism since the new government was elected two months ago.

The budget was more conservative (in this particular case I mean conservative as in cautious rather than as in right-wing) than you might have expected based on the government’s election pledges, and it’s not the only campaign promise that they’ve been forced to backtrack on.

“The central thing is that they’re breaking most of their major election promises at the same time as as they’re not really managing to take care of the big social problems Sweden faces today,” Damberg told SVT.

To be fair, you would kind of expect him to say this (when has a political opposition party ever praised the government’s budget?), but significantly, the criticism hasn’t only come from the left-wing opposition.

Moderate Party politicians in the powerful Skåne region earlier this month slammed their party for failing to deliver the promised support to those suffering sky high power bills in the southern Swedish county.

“There are effectively no reforms, and they’re not putting in place the policies they campaigned for in the election,” the head of the liberal think tank Timbro told the Aftonbladet newspaper about the budget.

It will be interesting to see whether the label as “promise breakers” sticks, and whether that will affect the right-wing parties in the next election.

Did you know?

Parties make more and more pledges during election campaigns. Ahead of the 2014 election, a whopping 1,848 vallöften (election promises) were made, according to research by Gothenburg University, up from 326 in 1994.

You may not believe this, because the stereotypical image of the dishonest politician perhaps unfairly endures, but research shows that most politicians keep most of their election promises most of the time.

Swedish parties in a single-party government and coalition governments with a joint manifesto tend to deliver on between 80 and 90 percent of their vallöften, according to political scientist Elin Naurin. For coalition governments without a joint manifesto, it ranges from 50 to 70 percent.

In other news

the deputy mayor of the town of Norrtälje, who got 15 seconds – technically 26 seconds – of fame after he was left speechless when a reporter asked him to defend hefty pay rises for top councillors has resigned, saying he wants to take responsibility for what happened.

He also told SVT about his long and very awkward silence on camera that his brain had simply blacked out after having worked for 13 hours straight and gone nine hours without food in the post-election frenzy.

Sweden Elects is a weekly column by Editor Emma Löfgren looking at the big talking points and issues after the Swedish election. Members of The Local Sweden can sign up to receive the column as a newsletter in their email inbox each week. Just click on this “newsletters” option or visit the menu bar.