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The election night where percentage points ruled supreme

| Text: Gunhild Wallin

Stockholm, 10th September, the day after the election...

Today, Sweden woke up after a long and exciting election night. Yet despite the long hours in front of the TV, Swedes had had to go to bed with no clear result. Many have claimed to be this election’s winners, but the chances of forming a government are complicated to say the least.

"It will all be decided on Wednesday.” So say one political commentator after the other the morning after the election, alluding to the votes from Swedes abroad which will be  counted by the end of Wednesday. Another 180,000 to 200,000 votes will be added to yesterday’s election result, and they could determine the entire election. That is how close this race was between the centre-left Alliansen and centre-right Red-green coalition alternatives when 6,002 constituencies had been counted, with only two remaining. Only 0.3 percent and one mandate separated the two blocks, with the one mandate in the centre-left Red-green’s favour. 

The Sweden Democrats saw the biggest gain

Early on during election night it became clear that the race between the blocks would be tight, and that the Sweden Democrats, SD, had had a good election – although perhaps not quite as good as many polls had predicted. Still, with their 17.6 percent they could celebrate a 4.7 percent increase in votes compared to the last election, and being the party that increased their share of the votes the most. So far SD has 62 mandates, which is an increase of 13 on the last election. 

And it was around the time when the election night disclosed these figures that it turned into a painstaking exercise in percentage calculations which until now has not been associated with parliamentary, municipal and county council elections, at least not for us watching from the sofa. Because regardless of whether the centre-left or the centre-right form the next government, it will not have a parliamentary majority. Different scenarios adding up various percentages was played out during election night, but nearly no matter how you imagine the party constellations, none of the blocks get a parliamentary majority.

For the centre-right, the choice stands between cooperating with the Sweden Democrats – which is totally unacceptable to the Centre Party and the Liberals – and reaching out across political divides and cooperate with parties on the centre-left. Should that happen, the Social Democrats cannot count on the support form the Left Party (V), as the centre-right parties would not accept it. 

Out in the cold?

And if a cross-political government solution were to be found, the election's two real winners – the Left Party and the Sweden Democrats – would in reality be shunted out from the power’s centre. How would that impact on the trust in the political system among the 25 percent of people who voted for either V or SD?

Quite early on in the evening there were clear noises from the parties on the centre-right. They wanted to see Stefan Löfven step down as Prime Minister and leave it to the speaker of parliament to find a solution to the forming of a new government. 

This made things a bit confusing even for the most politically engaged viewer. If the centre-left block is bigger, why should Alliansen form a government? Little by little, the reasoning became clearer – Alliansen does not count the Left Party as part of the centre-left block, which makes their own block the bigger one. But Stefan Löfven did not want to step down, he told jubilant followers after the clock struck midnight. 

The drama continues. The next few days will reveal the election winner. Then the government negotiations begin, and right now it seems possible that they could end in just about anything. Yet regardless of the solution, the election and the result raises many questions. 

Many questions

Why do the Sweden Democrats grow with the help mainly of votes from former Social Democrat and Moderaterna (Conservatives) voters? Why do not 300,000 new jobs and the highest employment rate for a European country ever benefit the centre-left government? And why did the Green Party only just scrape across the parliamentary 4 percent threshold after a summer with record heat, with a shortage of animal feed and forest fires as a result? And why do I as a voter and citizen sit in my sofa and wonder how many people seem to think they must “save” the country?

There are certainly many problems that need solving – growing inequalities, people falling outside of the system, crime, integration, health queues and more. But there is also a lot that does work – perhaps it is worth keeping that in mind also during an election and during an election night.

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