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High turnout expected in Swedish election

13 September 2018

The Sweden Democrats, a party with white supremacist roots, rose to 19.2 percent from 12.9 percent in the previous election, the poll by public service broadcaster SVT suggested, depriving either of the mainstream blocs of a parliamentary majority.

Sweden is heading for a hung parliament after an election that saw the popularity of the nationalist Sweden Democrats surge, as one of Europe's most liberal nations turns right amid fears over immigration.

The latest opinion poll suggests that Prime Minister Stefan Lofven's ruling Social Democrats will substantially lose seats but still emerge a victor with an estimated 24.9% of the votes.

The Social Democrats, traditionally the biggest party and who have led a minority government with the Greens, have lost support on both the left and the right and are tipped to post their lowest score since 1911.

This breaking news story is being updated and more details will be published shortly. The leader of the Moderates party that came in second, Ulf Kristersson, already had called on Lofven to resign and claimed the right to form Sweden's next government.

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The far-right Sweden Democrats, who have capitalised on voters' frustration over immigration after the country welcomed nearly 400,000 asylum seekers since 2012, were seen making steady gains, rising from 12.9 per cent in 2014 to 17.7 per cent. "We won't mourn, we will organize ourselves", he said.

The final results of the elections will be announced on Wednesday, after the roughly 50,000 votes cast overseas have also been counted. It could take weeks or months of coalition talks before the next government is formed.

It is highly unlikely that any single party will get a majority, or 175 seats.

Sweden - home to the Nobel prizes and militarily neutral for the better part of two centuries - has been known for its comparatively open doors to migrants and refugees.

The Swedish government in 2015 allowed 163,000 migrants into the country with a population of 10 million.

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Lofven eventually said Sweden no longer could cope with the influx and immigration laws were tightened. Members known for making pro-Third Reich statements were pushed out.

In southern Sweden, an SD stronghold, party leader Jimmie Akesson campaigned among throngs of supporters late Saturday as detractors booed him and shouted "No racists on our streets!"

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.

Akesson has said he would demand a curbing of immigration policy in exchange for his support, or key positions on parliamentary committees that draft legislation. "We're now competing against the Social Democrats and Moderates to become the biggest party in the country", he said, dismissing the protesters as "communists". Jeff Schaeffer and Philipp Jenne in Stockholm, Jari Tanner in Helsinki and Vanessa Gera in Warsaw contributed.

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High turnout expected in Swedish election