Sweden's ruling centre-left in slim election lead, exit poll shows
Sweden's centre-left bloc looked set for a narrow victory over right-wing opponents, an exit poll showed after voting ended on Sunday, although the anti-immigration Sweden Democrats made gains and could become the second largest party in parliament. The survey by public broadcaster SVT gave Prime Minister Magdalena Andersson's centre-left bloc 49.8% of the votes against 49.2% for the opposition right-wing parties.
Sweden's centre-left bloc looked set for a narrow victory over right-wing opponents, an exit poll showed after voting ended on Sunday, although the anti-immigration Sweden Democrats made gains and could become the second largest party in parliament.
The survey by public broadcaster SVT gave Prime Minister Magdalena Andersson's centre-left bloc 49.8% of the votes against 49.2% for the opposition right-wing parties. Opinion polls have shown the race too close to call throughout much of the campaign and exit polls can often differ from the final result. A TV4 poll on election day also showed the centre-left commanding a narrow lead.
Andersson's Social Democrats have been in power for eight years. The campaign has seen parties battle to be the toughest on gang crime, after a steady rise in shootings that has unnerved voters, while surging inflation and the energy crisis following the invasion of Ukraine have increasingly taken centre-stage.
Paediatrician Erik George, 52, said he thought the election campaign had been marked by a rise in populism. "I think that times are really tumultuous and people have a hard time figuring out what's going on," he said outside the voting station. "I'm fearing very much a repressive, very right-wing government coming," said Malin Ericsson, 53, a travel consultant outside a voting station in central Stockholm.
For others, the main goal is change. "I have voted for a change in power," said Jorgen Hellstrom 47, a small business owner, as he voted near parliament. "Taxes need to come down by quite a bit and we need to sort out crime. The last eight years have gone in the wrong direction."
The SVT exit poll showed Jimmie Akesson's Sweden Democrats, which demand that asylum immigration be cut to virtually zero, with 20.5% of the vote, up from 17.5% in the previous elections. While law and order is home turf for the right, gathering economic clouds as households and companies face sky-high power prices has been seen boosting Prime Minister Andersson, seen as a safe pair of hands and more popular than her own party.
"I have voted for a Sweden where we continue to build on our strengths. Our ability to tackle society's problems together, form a sense of community and respect each other," Andersson said after voting in a Stockholm suburb. Andersson was finance minister for many years before becoming Sweden's first female prime minister a year ago. Her main rival is Moderates' leader Ulf Kristersson, who sees himself as the only one who can unite the right and unseat her.
Kristersson has spent years deepening ties with the Sweden Democrats, an anti-immigration party with white supremacists among its founders. Initially shunned by all the other parties, the Sweden Democrats are now increasingly part of the mainstream right. "If people vote for change, we will deliver change," Kristersson told Reuters on the sidelines of one of his final campaign rallies.
(Additional reporting by Janis Laizans, Isabella Ronca, Terje Solsvik and Anna Ringstrom, Editing by William Maclean, Elaine Hardcastle, Catherine Evans)
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