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Sweden's Social Democrats reclaim power, as far right gains

Update: September, 15/2014 - 10:27

STOCKHOLM – A left-leaning coalition led by Sweden's opposition Social Democrats defeated the incumbent centre-right government in Sunday's general election, while the far right was headed for historic gains.

The anti-immigrant Sweden Democrats more than doubled their votes, to 12.9 per cent, becoming the Nordic country's third-largest party and striving for a role as "absolute kingmaker" in the legislature.

The election set the stage for a bid by the Social Democrats' leader Stefan Loefven to form a coalition government with the Greens and the former communist Left Party.

"I am ready to start exploring possibilities to form a new government for Sweden," the 57-year-old former trade unionist told jubilant supporters in Stockholm when his win was confirmed.

With 99.9 per cent of all districts counted, the red-green coalition had garnered a total of 43.7 per cent of the vote.

This compared with 39.3 per cent for the four-party conservative-liberal Alliance led by incumbent Prime Minister Fredrik Reinfeldt.

'We didn't make it'

Reinfeldt, prime minister for the past eight years, conceded defeat late Sunday with the vote counting almost complete.

"We didn't make it," the 49-year-old leader of the Moderates party told supporters in Stockholm, adding he would hand in his resignation Monday.

His challenger Loefven ran on a pledge to narrow a growing income gap, which has worried many in traditionally egalitarian Sweden, while also vowing to improve the schools and invest more on infrastructure.

"The Swedish people have turned their backs on tax cuts and privatisations as the solutions to all social problems," Loefven told his supporters Sunday after his victory was confirmed.

While he was ahead in the polls throughout the campaign, he had warned against complacency, and on the eve of the election admitted that the Sweden Democrats could end up in a pivotal position in the new parliament.

The far-right Sweden Democrats were a virtual non-entity less than a decade ago, and only entered parliament in the 2010 election, winning 5.7 per cent of the vote and 20 seats in the 349-seat legislature.

Sunday's result, which will more than double their presence in the parliament to 49 seats, is a major triumph for its leader, 35-year-old Jimmie Aakesson.—AFP

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