Swedish election too close to call as far-right group challenges government’s majority

By Karl Ritter, AP
Sunday, September 19, 2010

Swedish election too close to call

STOCKHOLM — Sweden’s election was heading for a nail-biting finish Sunday with a TV exit poll and partial results showing a far-right party challenging the center-right government’s majority in Parliament.

The exit poll by public broadcaster SVT showed the Islam-bashing Sweden Democrats party could play a kingmaker role, with no clear majority for the governing coalition or the left-wing opposition.

But a forecast based on partial official results showed Prime Minister Fredrik Reinfeldt’s government clinging to a one-seat majority in the 349-seat legislature.

The prime minister was trying to do what no center-right government has ever done before in the Scandinavian welfare nation — get re-elected after serving a full term. Until the last election in 2006, Sweden was dominated since the 1930s by the left-wing Social Democrats.

The exit poll gave Reinfeldt’s four-party coalition 49.1 percent of the vote compared to 45.1 percent for the Social Democrat-led opposition.

The anti-immigration Sweden Democrats party got 4.6 percent according to the exit poll.

Such a result could lead to a hung Parliament, because both blocs have ruled out governing with the Sweden Democrats, who want sharp cuts in immigration and have called Islam Sweden’s biggest foreign threat since World War II.

The SVT exit poll was based on more than 12,000 voter interviews and has an error margin of 2 percentage points.

An election day opinion poll by Novus Opinion and the TV4 network predicted a similar outcome, but put the Sweden Democrats just 0.1 percentage points above the 4 percent bar to win a seat in Parliament. Official results were expected later Sunday.

“If this result stands we will have an uncertain situation,” said Per Schlingmann, a spokesman for the prime minister’s Moderate Party.

Sweden Democrats spokesman Bjorn Soder called the exit poll numbers “very positive” and said they showed that Swedes are fed up with the country’s liberal immigration policy.

But pre-vote surveys showed Swedish voters were more concerned about unemployment — at 8.5 percent in July — the economy and the environment than they were about immigration.

The SVT election prognosis gave the governing coalition 175 seats against 154 for opposition and 20 for the Sweden Democrats. That would be enough for Reinfeldt to stay in power with a one-seat majority in Parliament.

Reinfeldt’s four-party coalition, called the Alliance for Sweden, has been boosted by popular tax cuts and healthy public finances that stand out in debt-ridden Europe.

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