An anti-immigration party has won nearly 20% of votes in the Swedish election, an early exit poll suggests.
Instead, Sunday's results effectively provided no clear victor and no convenient or simple narrative to explain the shifts underway in Swedish politics.
The Sweden Democrats, a party with white supremacist roots, won 17.6 per cent, about 5 percentage points more than four years ago.
Public broadcaster SVTsaid immediately after polls closed that its exit poll indicated the ruling Social Democrats would remain Sweden's largest party, but making its worst-ever showing with 26.2 per cent of the vote.
Pollsters had warned that the far-right Sweden Democrats could end up winning veto power over which parties form the next government. Meanwhile, next-door in Finland, the populist True Finns party was included in the center-right government in 2016. Many Swedes have switched parties since the last election, yet one exit poll suggested that the Sweden Democrats had held on to 86% of their 2014 voters, while attracting former Conservatives and Social Democrats.
Akesson was jubilant as he addressed supporters a day later, declaring the estimated 14 parliament seats the Social Democrats picked up a victory other parties could not ignore in coalition negotiations.
The SD, widely tipped to make gains in the election, won about 18 percent support, jumping almost five percentage points since the last elections four years ago.
Results were based on 99% of the vote confirmed and will not be finalized until Wednesday when overseas votes are counted.
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"We will gain huge influence over what happens in Sweden during the coming weeks, months and years", party leader Jimmie Akesson told supporters on Sunday night. "So we really have to solve it now".
The governing center-left bloc has a razor-thin edge over the center-right opposition Alliance, with roughly 40 percent each. "The other parties can't ignore them any more", he said.
The Sweden Democrats emerged with 63 MPs, up from 49, leaving them in a strong position. For me, when he is saying that immigrants are not welcome to Sweden ... he is trying to spread hate between the people. And this wasn't just campaign speak.
But the far-right has presented it as a vote on immigration and integration, after Sweden took in more than 160,000 asylum seekers in 2015 alone, a per capita record in Europe.
The Social Democrats played on this in the run-up to the elections.
Kristersson called on Lofven to resign, but rebuffed Akesson.
Both the left-leaning bloc led by the Social Democrats and the centre-right bloc in which the Moderates is largest of four parties have said they would refuse to consider the Sweden Democrats as a coalition partner. Speculation about viable options includes a combination of the Social Democrats, the Centre Party and Liberal Party, with parliamentary support from the Greens and the Left Party.
"The Alliance have already gone out and locked themselves up in a position", she said. The party also repeatedly called for a "Swexit" referendum on the country leaving the European Union.
While the results need to be taken with caution - the votes of Swedish expats living overseas are not included yet and will only be released sometime this week, it seems clear already: the right-wing "populists" once again performed well, while finding a government will be tough for everyone involved. Immigration was, for a long time, a taboo subject for the major parties; now it's not only acceptable, but some politicians even talk about deporting immigrants. "Nothing will get done, people will get anxious". "Before, it was not OK to say to someone, "You should go back home where you come from.' It was not OK", Sundstrom of the Olof Palme International Center said".
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