Results from last week’s Swedish election are now final. The differences from the preliminary figures are only slight: the order of the parties is unchanged, with Social Democrats (centre-left), Moderates (centre-right) and Sweden Democrats (far right) filling the top three places with 28.3%, 19.8% and 17.5% respectively.
A few days ago it looked as if the Sweden Democrats might pick up an extra seat at the expense of the Centre Party (the agrarian component of the centre-right Alliance), but it didn’t happen. The seat totals remain as I originally reported, with the left-of-centre parties one seat ahead of the Alliance, 144 to 143. The far right, with 62 seats, holds the balance of power.
If Centre had slipped back a seat, that could have been important, since its 31 seats are just enough to give the left-of-centre parties a majority if it were to switch sides. That still remains an option if Moderate leader Ulf Kristersson does a deal with the far right – in that event, Social Democrat prime minister Stefan Löfven will try to lure both Centre and the Liberals (with 20 seats) into his coalition.
Although the media are full of dramatic reports on the far right’s “surge”, the basic arithmetic remains unchanged from the last parliament. The left-of-centre parties are ahead, but neither they nor their rivals are close to a majority.
There are only two routes to a majority, and it is the centre-right parties that have to choose. Either the mainstream parties work together, or the Alliance deals with the Sweden Democrats. There is no third option.
In the last parliament, the Moderates eventually swallowed their pride and reached agreement with the centre-left. All the signs are that this time, if it was up to Kristersson alone, he would be willing to make some sort of arrangement with the far right. But the chance of carrying his coalition partners with him on that seems remote.
So although nothing will happen quickly, and there will probably be extensive rounds of negotiation, it remains true that the likely outcome is another government led by the Social Democrats, with the support (tacit or explicit) of the centrist parties.
There is a risk that that may end up pushing the Moderates and the Sweden Democrats closer together. But there is no single best strategy for countering the far right; every option has its pros and cons. For now there seems little to be said, either morally or practically, for bringing them within the tent.