+++ Sweden elections 2018 — live updates +++
After Sweden's most important election in decades, first results show the center-left and center-right blocs are neck-and-neck. The far-right Sweden Democrats have made significant gains to hold third place.
- Sweden's SVT public broadcaster reported first results giving the center-left Social Democrats first place with 28.4 percent of the vote. The Moderates are at 19.8 percent and the far-right Sweden Democrats (SD) — a party with neo-Nazi roots — in third place with 17.6 percent.
- Sweden's left-wing governing bloc — made up of the Social Democrats, the Green Party and the Left Party — is at 40.6 percent, compared with 40.2 percent for the four-party center-right opposition led by the conservative Moderate Party. If the results stand, each of the two groups would take 143 of 349 seats, well short of the 175 needed for a majority.
- Polling ended at 8:00 pm (1800 UTC) and, most results came in before midnight (2200 UTC), but it may take weeks before a new government emerges.
All updates in Universal Coordinated Time (UTC)
2250: Social Democrat leader and Prime Minister Stefan Lofven said he would calmly work as premier over the next two weeks. He said regardless of the final outcome, the election should be the funeral for bloc politics. "The voters have made their choice, now it's up to all of us decent parties to wait for the final result and then negotiate (and) cooperate to move Sweden forward in a responsible way."
2150: With 84.5 percent of votes counted, the Social Democrats have 28.3 percent, according to SVT reports, the Moderates 19.8 percent and the Sweden Democrats 17.6 percent.
2130: The 300,000 votes from Swedes abroad, and people who cast their ballots late may play a key part in the result, which looks like it is going to be very close. The final tally will only be announced on Wednesday.
2110: As votes continue to be counted, the Social Democrats retain their lead but with a share reduced from the 31 percent they took in 2014, according to SVT television. Their alliance partners, the Greens, have also seen their share down from 6.9 percent in 2014 to only just above the 4 percent threshold needed to win seats in the Riksdag.
2010: Half of the votes have been counted: Here are the latest percentage figures, according to Sweden's SVT public broadcaster:
Social Democrats: 28.1
Sweden Democrats: 17.9
Left Party: 8.1
Centre Party: 8.8
Christian Democrats: 6.4
Liberal Party: 5.4
Green Party: 4.4
2000: "Sweden, birthplace of multiculturalism and model for the left, has finally decided to change after years of wild, uncontrolled immigration," Italy's far-right interior minister, Matteo Salvini, said on Twitter. "Now they are also saying 'no' to this Europe of bureaucrats and speculators, 'no' to illegals, 'no' to Islamic extremism."
1955: More than 2,000 of 6,004 constituencies have counted their votes.
1945: Green Party MP Maria Ferm has told Radio Sweden her party risks falling below the 4 percent threshold needed to have a seat assigned in the Swedish parliament. An SVT exit poll put the Green Party at 4.2 percent of the vote.
1930: SVT has announced the Swedish Democrats got 41 percent of the vote in the district of Stalldalen. Meanwhile, the country's election commission website is down, reportedly because of heavy traffic.
1800: An exit poll by SVT put the center-left Social Democrats in first place with 26.2 percent of the vote. The Sweden Democrats in second place with 19.2 percent, and the Moderates at 17.8 percent. The final results are expected before midnight (2200 UTC).
1730: Some 38 percent of Swedes decided who they would vote for today or during the last week, according to a ValU exit poll by public broadcaster SVT. While 41 percent said they have changed their vote since the last parliamentary elections four years ago.
1620: Members of the Nordic Resistance Movement (NMR), a right-wing extremist group, reportedly entered polling stations in Boden, Ludvika and Kungalv. They tried to take photos of voters, ballot papers and journalists, according to the Svenska Dagbladet newspaper.
1520: Opinion polls suggest the far-right Sweden Democrats could garner between 16 and 25 percent of the vote. That would make it one of the biggest parties, also making it difficult to predict the make-up of the next government.
"Everything suggests we're going to have a good election," SD leader Jimmie Akesson told news agency TT after voting in Stockholm.
1400: Latest opinion polls suggest the ruling center-left Social Democrats, led by Prime Minister Stefan Lofven, will lose a substantial number of parliamentary seats, but that they would still win ahead of the far-right, anti-immigration Sweden Democrats whose popularity has steadily risen since the last election in 2014.
1240: This will be the first election since Sweden's government in 2015 allowed 163,000 migrants into the country. While far less than what Germany took in that year, it was the most per capita of any European nation. Roughly 7.5 million registered voters will choose from almost 6,300 candidates for a four-year term in the 349-seat Riksdag, or parliament. It's highly unlikely that any single party will manage to get a majority, or 175 seats.
1140: One voter, Vicki R., who lives outside of Stockholm in one of the wealthiest areas of the country, told DW she finds that there is a lot of support for the Moderates and noted that while Sweden always has high voter turn out, voters also turn out for local issues and that could push voter turn out even higher today.
0830: Prime Minister Stefan Lofven has cast his ballot and shared a few words with the press. "This election is about decency, and we stand for decency," he said before once again dismissing the Sweden Democrats as a racist party.
0730: Liberal Party leader Jan Bjorklund and the Center Party's Annie Loof have reiterated that they will not go into negotiations with the far-right Sweden Democrats (SD) following Sunday's vote. A high vote for the SD, which is expected to claim around 20 percent, could see it have a huge bearing on who ultimately comes out on top. Speaking to Swedish public broadcaster SVT, Loof did admit that the center-right Alliance might need to win the backing of at least one of the left-wing parties if it is to get into power.
0615: Around 7.5 million people are eligible to vote today and turnout is traditionally high in Sweden, hitting 85.8 percent in 2014. More than a quarter of voters remain undecided going into Sunday's vote, according to a Sifo poll published on Wednesday.
Read more: Neo-Nazi background hounds Sweden Democrats
0600: Welcome to Deutsche Welle's live coverage of the Swedish elections. Polls opened at 8 a.m. local time (0600 UTC) Sunday and voting will continue until 8 p.m., when the counting of ballot papers begins. The first preliminary results are expected to be released between 10 p.m. and 11 p.m.
The Social Democrats under Prime Minister Stefan Lofven suffered their worst defeat in a century in September elections, losing 13 seats in parliament. Even so, Lovfen is expected to serve another term as the head of a minority government in a policy deal with the Greens, the Center Party, and the Liberals following months of failed attempts to form a coalition that could take the reins.
Ulf Kristersson's Moderates had a stab at building a coalition, but failed. In the end Sweden's second-largest party will be sitting on the sidelines. Kristersson has said he will take advantage of the first opportunity to topple the new government. The right-wing party is mainly focused on law and order and job creation.
The far-right Sweden Democrats had their hopes set on a new government that would rely on them as kingmaker. But the mainstream parties were loathe to cooperate with SD. The party's popularity has spiked in recent years due to rising anti-migrant sentiment (Sweden took in over 160,000 asylum-seekers in 2015) and Akesson's efforts to cleanse the party of its neo-Nazi roots.
The Greens agreed again to be the junior partner in a Social Democrat-led coalition. The party has been set on preventing the Sweden Democrats from holding sway over a new government. With their strong focus on environment, Lovin pushed for flight and carbon taxes as minister for international development and climate. Fridolin, education minister, plans to resign the co-leadership in May.
Sweden's Center Party emerged from the Democratic Farmers League, and while agriculture and environment remain key to its policies, Annie Loof emerged as the party's hope to attract urban and more progressive voters. Loof got a shot at forming a coalition, but gave up after a week. The party has said it backs the Social Democrats' plan to lead a new government but will not join it.
Left Party chief Jonas Sjostedt, a former metal worker and union leader, served in the European Parliament from 1995-2006. He returned to Swedish politics and was elected to parliament in 2010 and became party leader two years later. The Left agreed not to block a new government under the Social Democrats' Lofven out of fear that the far-right Sweden Democrats might gain power in a snap election.
A former army major, Liberals leader Jan Bjorklund has adopted a fighting approach to politics. The results have been mixed; the party's policy ideas on education and equality have been well received, while calls to expand the military and join NATO have mostly fallen on deaf ears. Despite internal divisions, the party has backed Lofven as premier though they will not be part of his government.
Sweden's Christian Democrats have struggled to attract wide support, despite attempts to distance themselves from religious roots. Meanwhile, the party's increasingly harsh tone toward migration may have alienated more voters with Christian values than it has drawn in new ones. Ebba Busch Thor has criticized the Center Party and Liberals for backing Lovfen, suggesting they humiliated themselves.
jm/kl (Reuters, dpa, AP, AFP)