For more than a decade after they entered parliament in 2010, the Sweden Democrats (sd) were shunned by Sweden’s other parties because of their roots in the neo-Nazi movement, and their racially polarising anti-immigrant rhetoric and policies. Yet the party has increased its share of the vote in every election since. Jimmie Akesson, the sd’s leader, has tried to purge flagrant bigots, though scandals keep occurring. Most recently, a local candidate quit the party after a news site discovered he had shared racist jokes about lynchings and bestiality. Yet the sd has become sufficiently mainstream, and its vote share sufficiently large, that before this year’s election, on September 11th, Sweden’s other conservative parties swallowed their scruples and said they would be prepared to accept the party’s support to form a right-leaning government.
Now the sd finds itself closer than ever to a taste of power. Though the final result is still unclear, the sd has emerged as Sweden’s largest right-wing party, with 20.6% of the vote, and the second largest party overall behind the Social Democrats. With nearly all voting stations reporting, the combined right, including the sd, seemed to have won a narrow victory over the country’s left-wing parties, earning 49.7% of the vote to the left’s 48.8%. That would give the right a one-vote margin in the Riksdag, Sweden’s parliament. But with some early votes and votes from abroad still to be counted, the balance could yet swing back to the left.