Swedes are voting in an election in which the incumbent centre-left Social Democrats are up against a right-wing bloc that supports anti-immigration policies. Sweden Democrats in an attempt to regain power after eight years of opposition.
With a steadily growing number of shootings unnerving voters, parties are vying to be the toughest in the fight against gang violence, while rising inflation and the energy crisis following the Russian invasion of Ukraine are increasingly taking center stage.
Law and order is the birthplace of the right, but a gathering of economic thunderclouds could help a social democratic prime minister Magdalena Anderssonconsidered a reliable pair of hands and more popular than her party.
“My clear message is that we have supported Swedish companies and households during the pandemic. I will act exactly the same again if I get your trust again,” she said at one of the last debates before the Sunday vote.
Andersson served as finance minister for many years before becoming Sweden’s first female prime minister a year ago. Her main rival is moderate leader Ulf Kristersson, who sees himself as the only person who can unite the right and overthrow her.
Kristersson has for years strengthened ties with the Swedish Democrats, an anti-immigration party whose founders include white supremacists. The Swedish Democrats, initially shunned by all other parties, are now increasingly part of the right-wing mainstream.
“We will prioritize law and order, making it profitable to work and build new clean nuclear power,” Kristersson said in a video released by his party. “To put it simply, we want to deal with Sweden.”
Polling stations open at 8 am local time and close at 8 pm, with final results around midnight.
Opinion polls show the centre-left is head-to-head with the right-wing bloc, where the Swedish Democrats appear to have recently overtaken the moderates to become the second largest party after the Social Democrats.
For many centre-left voters — and even some right-wingers — the prospect of Jimmy Åkesson’s Swedish Democrats swaying government policy or entering cabinet remains deeply unsettling, and the election is seen in part as a referendum on whether to give them that power.
Kristersson wants to form a government with small Christian Democrats and possibly Liberals, and rely only on the support of the Swedish Democrats in Parliament. But these are assurances that the centre-left does not take at face value.
Uncertainty looms over the election as both blocs face long and difficult negotiations to form a government in a polarized and emotionally charged political environment.
Andersson will need to enlist the support of the Center Party and the Left, which are ideological opposites, and possibly the Green Party if she wants to be prime minister for a second term.
“I have quite a few red lines,” said Annie Löf, whose Center Party split with Kristersson over his embrace of the Swedish Democrats, in a recent interview with SVT. “I have one red line: I will never miss a government that influences the Swedish Democrats.”