Swedish center-left take lead, anti-immigration party gains: TV4 voter poll

Ulf Kristersson the leader of the Moderates shakes hands with a voter

Ulf Kristersson the leader of the Moderates shakes hands with a voter

The Sweden Democrats, a party founded by white supremacists, rose to 17.8 per cent from 12.9 per cent in the last election four years ago, in effect securing the balance of power. The leader of the Moderates party that came in second, Ulf Kristersson, already had called on Lofven to resign and claimed the right to form Sweden's next government.

During a heated debate of party leaders on Friday evening, the Sweden Democrats' Jimmie Akesson caused a stir by blaming migrants for the difficulties they often have in finding employment.

Like other far-right parties in Europe, the Sweden Democrats worked to soften its neo-Nazi image in the lead-up to the election.

The anti-immigration, nationalist Sweden Democrats, which are shunned by all other parties, recorded large gains, as expected leaving both the right- and left-wing blocs well short of a majority.

The centre-left bloc, uniting the minority governing Social Democrat and Green parties with the Left Party, is backed by about 40 per cent of voters, recent opinion polls indicate, with a slim lead over the centre-right Alliance bloc. Opinion polls suggest SD could garner between 16 and 25 percent of the vote, making it one of the biggest parties and rendering it nearly impossible to predict the make-up of the next government.

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Around 18.5 per cent of Sweden's population of 10 million was born overseas, according to Statistics Sweden.

The latest opinion poll suggests that Prime Minister Stefan Lofven's ruling Social Democrats will substantially lose seats but still emerge a victor with an estimated 24.9% of the votes.

The Social Democrats' result was its worst showing in a century.

Turnout in the election was reported at 84.4 per cent, up from 83 per cent in 2014. "I'm afraid we're becoming a society that is more hostile to foreigners".

"The election is between potential democracy and potential facism", he told AFP.

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Lengthy negotiations will be needed to build a majority, or at least a minority that won't be toppled by the opposite side.

Final results are due before midnight (2200 GMT) but the composition of the next government may not be known for weeks. But with some kind of cooperation between parties in the centre-left and centre-right blocs an equally unlikely alternative to the current political deadlock, analysts believe that Akesson may yet end up with some influence on policy.

Mohamed Nuur, a Social Democrat candidate of Somali descent, said he sees Mr Akesson taking Sweden back to the past.

The broadcaster that aired the televised debate, SVT, afterward called his remarks degrading and against the democratic mandate of public broadcasting. "We're now competing against the Social Democrats and Moderates to become the biggest party in the country", he said, dismissing the protesters as "communists". "It's time to take responsibility and talk to the Sweden Democrats", he said.

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