The ruling left-wing Social Democrats led by Prime Minister Magdalena Andersson have taken a slim lead in Sunday’s general election, according to two exit polls, while a right-wing populist party had its best showing yet.
The four left-wing parties were credited with 50.6 percent of voter support in an exit poll published on TV4, compared to 48 percent for the four parties on the right. A second exit poll on public broadcaster SVT gave the left 49.8 percent and the right 49.2 percent.
Both polls, published after voting closed on Sunday, also suggested that the anti-immigration and nationalist Sweden Democrats could for the first time become the country’s second-biggest party in the 349-seat parliament. They credited the party with 21.3 and 20.5 percent of votes, respectively.
The exit polls have margins of error and the final outcome will only be known once all votes are counted.
Vote counting is under way.
If the final results were to confirm the left bloc’s lead, Prime Minister Magdalena Andersson, a 55-year-old former finance minister, would try to build a government with the support of the small left, centre and Green parties.
The Social Democrats have governed Sweden since 2014.
Swedes voted on Sunday in national elections in which immigration was one of the poll planks.
Opinion polls had predicted a razor-thin lead for Prime Minister Andersson’s Social Democrats and an allied left-wing bloc after a campaign dominated by discussions of rising gang shootings and soaring electricity prices.
The right-wing Sweden Democrats entered parliament in 2010 and have steadily gained more votes with each election. The party’s fortunes have risen following massive migration in recent years, particularly in Europe’s crisis year of 2015.
The party has its roots in the white nationalist movement, but many years ago began expelling extremists. Despite its rebranding, voters long viewed it as unacceptable and other parties shunned it. That is changing.
Polls predicted the Sweden Democrats, which won 13 percent in 2018, would take about 20 percent on Sunday to become the second-largest party in the parliament. That would put it only behind the centre-left Social Democrats.
Voter turnout was expected to be high, with more than 80 percent of the country’s 7.8 million eligible voters expected to cast ballots.