Copenhagen, Denmark — A right-wing bloc including a nationalist anti-immigration party won a narrow majority in Sweden’s parliament on Wednesday. It was a major political change in the Scandinavian country which had a long history of welcoming refugees but is struggling with a wave of immigration-related crime.
Centre-left Prime Minister Magdalena Andersson conceded defeat with 99.9% of the vote in the weekend elections counted on Wednesday. She announced she would step down on Thursday.
The populist leader of the Swedish Democrats, Jimmie Akesson, declared victory for the four-party bloc. He said his party would be “a constructive and driving force” in the work of rebuilding Sweden’s security. He said it was “time to put Sweden first”.
The bloc that includes the Sweden Democrats – the country’s second largest party – won a narrow majority in parliament. Although a few votes were pending, they were not enough to influence the final result.
Prime Minister Andersson said “the preliminary result is clear enough to draw a conclusion” that his centre-left forces had lost power.
Andersson became Sweden’s first female prime minister last year and led the country in its historic bid for NATO membership after Russia invaded Ukraine.
While Andersson is personally popular, anxiety in Sweden has grown over high crime rates in segregated neighborhoods that are home to large numbers of immigrants who have failed to integrate into Swedish society. Some blamed his Social Democrats, in power for eight years.
Ulf Kristersson, the leader of Sweden’s third-largest party, the Moderates, seen as the figurehead of the right-wing bloc and a possible prime minister, thanked voters for their confidence. “Now we will put Sweden in order,” he wrote on Facebook.
“Moderates and other parties on my side have been given the mandate for the change we have demanded. I now begin the work of forming an effective new government,” Kristersson said.
The Swedish Democrats have long been shunned by Swedes because the party was founded in the 1980s by neo-Nazis and other far-right extremists. In recent years, he has entered the mainstream by kicking out extremists and won support through a tough stance on crime and immigration amid a rise in shootings and other gang violence.
His transformation has been led by Akesson, 43, who in his Wednesday night speech said it was time to open a new chapter in Sweden.
“Now enough will be enough with the failure of social democratic policy which for eight years has continued to lead the country in the wrong direction,” Akesson said. “It is time to start rebuilding security, well-being and cohesion. It’s time to put Sweden first. Swedish Democrats will be a constructive and driving force in this work.
“Now the work begins to make Sweden good again,” he said.
The tally gave the right-wing bloc 176 seats in parliament from 349, the Riksdag and Andersson’s centre-left bloc with 173 seats. A majority in Sweden requires 175 seats.
“The four right-wing parties seem to have won just under 50% of the vote in the elections, and in the Riksdag they won one or two mandates. A slight majority, but it’s a majority,” Andersson said.
“Tomorrow I will therefore ask for my dismissal as Prime Minister and the responsibility for continuing the process will now pass to the Speaker of Parliament and the Riksdag.”
Gera reported from Warsaw, Poland.