Swedish far-right party grows support, not by as much feared

Prime Minister Stefan Löfven next to his campaign bus

The polls showed the far-right, anti-immigration Sweden Democrats would get 19.1% of the votes. It received a little more than one in six votes, or 17.6 per cent.

Opposition leader Ulf Kristersson of the conservative Moderates has vowed to foil Lofven's attempts to form a government, intent on building his own centre-right coalition.

The Sweden Democrats - led by Jimmie Akesson - has worked to soften its neo-Nazi image while helping to break down longstanding taboos on what Swedes could say openly about immigration and integration without being shunned as racists.

The far-right SD, with roots in a neo-Nazi movement, has called the arrival of nearly 400,000 refugees in Sweden since 2012 a threat to Swedish culture, claiming that they are straining the country's generous welfare system.

Neither Lofven's "red-green" bloc nor Kristersson's opposition centre-right four-party Alliance (Moderates, Centre, Liberals and Christian Democrats) were expected to win a majority in parliament.

Timo Soini (BR), the Minister for Foreign Affairs, says Sweden's election results reflect public disappointment with traditional political blocs and their immigration policy.

Around 18.5 per cent of Sweden's population of 10 million was born overseas, according to Statistics Sweden.

Prime Minister Stefan Lofven, who brought the Social Democrats to power in 2014, said he meant to remain in the job. "It's also about decency, about a decent democracy ... and not letting the Sweden Democrats, an extremist party, a racist party, get any influence in the government".

The Social Democrats have led a minority government with the Greens since 2014, with the informal support of the ex-communist Left Party to pass legislation.

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Turnout in the election was reported at 84.4 per cent, up from 83 per cent in 2014.

He told AFP he was anxious about SD. "I'm afraid we're becoming a society that is more hostile to foreigners".

Final results are due before midnight (2200 GMT) but the composition of the next government may not be known for weeks.

Lengthy negotiations will be needed to build a majority, or at least a minority that won't be toppled by the opposite side. "They should be taken seriously, they have raised serious issues, not just immigration but health care too", said 46-year-old Stockholm voter Henrik, a doctor who refused to give his last name. The preliminary results made it unlikely any party would secure a majority of 175 seats in the 349-seat Riksdag, Sweden's parliament.

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.

The broadcaster that aired the televised debate, SVT, afterward called his remarks degrading and against the democratic mandate of public broadcasting.

"This party has increased and made the biggest gains".

Another, smaller poll by TV4 had the Sweden Democrats taking 16.3 percent.

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