Sweden faces a political impasse after its mainstream centre-left and centre-right blocs virtually tied in an election on Sunday, while the far-right – which neither wants to deal with – made gains on a hardline anti-immigration platform.
With nearly all votes counted on Monday, the ruling centre-left Social Democrats and Greens and their Left Party parliamentary ally had 40.6 percent of the vote, while the opposition centre-right Alliance was on 40.3 percent.
That translates into a single-seat advantage in the 349-member Riksdag.
But with the count ongoing it may take until Wednesday before the final result is declared, when the last votes by Swedes living abroad are counted and checked.
The Sweden Democrats, a party with white supremacist roots, won 17.6 percent, about 5 percentage points more than four years ago.
It was the biggest gain of any party and in line with conventional opinion polls but fell short of the 20-30 percent their leader Jimmie Akesson had predicted.
Despite polls suggesting the Sweden Democrats could win, they were beaten by Prime Minister Stefan Lofven’s Social Democrats by a 10 percentage point margin and eclipsed also by Ulf Kristersson’s Moderates, the Alliance’s candidate for the premiership.
Senior figures in the mainstream parties headed into meetings on Monday to produce a strategy for forming a government.
But the process could take weeks and possibly fail, with the Sweden Democrats vowing to sink any cabinet that doesn’t give them a say in policy.
Mr Akesson said on local channel TV4: “We won’t participate in letting through a government which doesn’t give us influence.
“On the contrary, we will do what we can to take down any such government.”
A new election will be called if parliament doesn’t agree on a prime minister after four attempts.