Sweden's nationalist party comes second place in elections

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

When Mattias Karlsson joined the Sweden Democrats in 1999 the party had what could politely be called an image problem.

The ruling Social Democrats and Greens, and their parliament ally the Left Party, were backed by 39.5 percent, according to Friday's poll by Novus for public service broadcaster SVT.

Meanwhile, the far-right Sweden Democrats, who have capitalized 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 percent in 2014 to 17.6 percent.

Sweden's national election commission reported the governing Social Democrats had 28.1 percent of the vote at a little past the midway point in the vote count from Sunday's election.

The process of forming a stable government out of the deadlocked parliament could take weeks and, potentially, end in failure.

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 percent of the votes.

Sunday's election was the first in Sweden since its government in 2015 allowed 163,000 migrants into the Scandinavian country with a population of 10 million.

But the far-right has presented it as a vote on immigration and integration, after Sweden took in more than 160,000 asylum seekers in 2015 alone, a per capita record in Europe.

Sweden was once particularly welcoming to refugees, but the issue of migration has became highly politicized following a steady increase in new arrivals.

Many Swedes began to worry about an erosion of "humanitarian values" as the Sweden Democrat party rose in popularity.

"We are going to gain real influence over Swedish politics", Sweden Democrats leader Jimmie Akesson told cheering supporters at an election night party.

At the party's rally on Saturday, he strongly criticized Lofven's government for "prioritizing" the cause of immigrants over the needs of citizens.

New Democracy, founded by an aristocrat and a record producer, won almost 7 percent of the vote in 1991, on the promise of strict immigration policies, cheaper alcohol and free parking, only to crash out of parliament three years later.

Either some form of cooperation between the center-left and Alliance or an accommodation with the Sweden Democrats is likely to be necessary.

"We have a moral responsibility".

"Terrible! I just wanna cry when I think about it", said Veronica Lundqvist, referring to the Sweden Democrats after she left a voting booth in central Stockholm.

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.

But the two blocs have never governed in tandem, and so far all other parties have shunned the Sweden Democrats.

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

"For me, the Sweden that he (Jimmie Akesson) wants to see ... that is not our future", Nuur said.

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