Sweden votes in election amid heated debate on immigration

17 2018 Jimmie Akesson leader of the Sweden Democrats campaigns in Sundsvall Sweden

Sweden goes to the polls with far-right group with neo-Nazi roots tipped to become largest party

Sweden Democrats, which blames the country's recent surge in rapes, sexual assaults and riots on immigrants, came second place in Sunday's elections according to an exit poll by state broadcaster SVT.

The centre-left bloc, uniting the minority governing Social Democrat and Green parties with the Left Party, is backed by about 40 per cent of voters, recent opinion polls indicate, with a slim lead over the centre-right Alliance bloc.

As a result, neither mainstream party will secure an outright majority in parliament, Reuters reported.

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

Sunday's election will be Sweden's first since the government in 2015 allowed 163,000 migrants into the country of 10 million.

"This government we have had. have prioritised, during these four years, asylum-seekers", Jimmie Åkesson, the far-right party's leader, told his final election rally this weekend.

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The potentially promising prospects of the far-right Sweden Democrats had many other Swedes anxious about an erosion of the humanitarian values that have always been a foundation of the Scandinavian country's identity.

"This election is a referendum about our welfare", Prime Minister Stefan Lofven said.

Supporters are seen during the Centre Party's election night at the Scandic Hotorget hotel in central Stockholm, Sweden September 9, 2018.

"This government we have had now. they have prioritized, during these four years, asylum-seekers", Akesson said, giving an exhaustive list of things he says the government has failed to do for Swedish society because of migrants. "I think that it shows that people are disappointed with how the country is run, and they are rooting for something, they want something different, but it's not necessarily the best kind of different", he said of the far right's rise.

A partial tally of the vote by the Election Authority is due between 2000 and 2100 GMT.

Both the ruling center-left Social Democrats and the center-right Moderates had among their worst results in modern Swedish political history.

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Sweden, recognized for its open-door immigration policy, has always been a destination for refugees.

On a good night for the smaller parties, the ex-communist Left almost doubled its score to 9.8% and the centre-right Centre and Christian Democrat parties both advanced.

But others say the Sweden Democrats are trying to fix a historical problem.

With neither Lofven's "red-green" bloc nor his own Alliance standing a chance of winning a majority, Kristersson has said Sweden needs "a strong cross-bloc cooperation to isolate the forces. pushing for Sweden to withdraw from worldwide cooperation".

Such an outcome could weaken the Swedish crown in the short term, but analysts do not see any long-term effect on markets from the election because economic growth is strong, government coffers are well stocked and there is broad agreement about the thrust of economic policy. "Integration is one of the biggest questions for the future in Sweden".

"We are the guarantee to oust the current government from power", he said.

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