Sweden elections: Swedes take to polls amid debate over immigration

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With one major caveat: the Center and Liberals are members of the Alliance, together with the Moderates and Christian Democrats.

The far-right Sweden Democrats had at times during the campaign appeared to have a shot at becoming the biggest party in the country, but in the end they placed third, capturing 18 percent of initial tallies of the vote.

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 percent of the votes.

The ruling Social Democrats and Greens, and their parliament ally the Left Party, were backed by 39.5 percent, according to Friday's poll by Novus for public service broadcaster SVT.

We asked political scientist Nicholas Aylott, an associate professor at Södertörn University, how the provisional result changes expectations.

The result was a mark of the success Akesson has had in gentrifying his party, which traded in its black boots and swastikas for suits and has sought to portray itself as a defender of ordinary working Swedes.

But the two blocs have never governed in tandem, and so far all other parties have shunned the Sweden Democrats.

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"When the same party time and again increases, and the other parties stand still, then you have to listen to that part of the population that is voting for this party".

Given this backdrop, Dr Wellings said he was actually surprised the Sweden Democrats did not capture even more of the vote. Another voter indicated that she was scared of what support for the Sweden Democrats might mean for the country, stating that "the future of our lovely open society is threatened".

The Moderates party was next at 19.8 percent, followed by the Sweden Democrats at 17.6 percent.

Far-right populists in Europe, however, were celebrating the Sweden Democrats' rise.

The far-right gains have proved a shocking result for Sweden, usually one of the most liberal nations in Europe. But the process could take weeks and possibly fail, with the Sweden Democrats vowing to sink any cabinet that doesn't give them a say in policy.

Prime Minister Stefan Lofven's ruling center-left bloc maintained a slight lead with 40.6% of the vote, with the center-right alliance winning 40.3%. "It's also about decency, about a decent democracy ... and not letting the Sweden Democrats, an extremist party, a racist party, get any influence in the government".

"This is where it gets very interesting".

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"I've said throughout the campaign that 20 to 30 percent (of votes) is a reasonable score for us and I think that's possible". But some 200,000 votes from Swedes who live overseas, which could tip the balance, were only to be counted Wednesday.

A long, uncertain process to form a coalition government now seems likely amid concerns the center-right opposition may reach out to the Sweden Democrats, a party with roots in the neo-Nazi movement, to take power. So it would have to be some sort of government that had the participation or support of the Social Democrats and maybe the Greens too.

The left and right centrist blocs are basically on a tie.

The prime minister said the Sweden Democrats had "Saluted Hitler and fanned the flames of racism".

If the Sweden Democrats were included in the conservative bloc, there would be a large conservative majority in this election.

That gave the centre-left 144 seats in the 349-seat parliament against 142 for the Alliance, suggesting weeks of uncertainty before a workable government can be formed.

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