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EU Election, Day 3: Sweden takes a clear right-wing turn

The post-election analysis of the 2019 European Parliament elections in Sweden is shaping up to be radically different to that of 2014, when the left-wing Feminist Initiative (S&D) as well as the Green Party (G/EFA) both achieved their best ever results in a national vote, giving left-wing parties a plurality of the seats (11/21). Even the Sweden Democrats’ (ECR) first-time entry into the Parliament managed to be slightly outshone. Fast-forward two years later, and the success stories are all on the right.

By consistently polling at 17-18% in the weeks leading up to today’s vote, the Sweden Democrats are looking to make their biggest election-on-election gain, even vying to snatch the runner-up spot from the Moderate Party (EPP) for the first time in a national-level vote. Its growth can largely be attributed to national developments, where the 2015 migration crisis led to the party surging in the polls due to its restrictive immigration policies. It is also the only real Eurosceptic option, even if it abandoned the policy of working towards a ‘Swexit’ earlier this year.

The other more surprising winner is the Christian Democrats (EPP), which is looking to secure more than 1 seat in the European parliament for the first time in 20 years and potentially increase its vote share by as much as 5-6 percentage points. This should be seen in the context of the party being predicted to lose all its seats in the national parliament of Sweden as little as 2-3 months before the elections in September 2018. An drawn-out and contentious government formation process, as well as a clear turn to the right in terms of rhetoric and approach to the Sweden Democrats (ECR), has since turned its fortunes around on the national level, which is now mirrored in these European elections as well. Combine this with the slight electoral increase predicted for the right-wing Moderate Party, and it seems likely that EPP will become the parliamentary group with the plurality of Swedish seats for the first time since 1999.

While the Social Democrats are likely to keep its position as Sweden’s biggest party, which it has held on a national level since 1917, and perform similarly to five years ago, its vote share is still at an historic low. This is remarkable, as it has been unable to make gains following the retractions of its most closely related parties, the Greens (G/EFA), that are likely losing 2 of its 4 seats, and Feminist Initiative (S&D), which is almost certainly losing its only seat this evening.

In terms of modest gains, the Left Party (GUE/NGL) and the Centre Party (ALDE) are both aiming to increase their seats in the European Parliament from 1 to 2. In the case of the Left Party, this would be its best result since 2004. For the Centre Party, it would be the first time since 1995, in Sweden’s first-ever European elections, that it wins more than a single seat. 

Finally, supporters of the Liberal Party (ALDE) are surely going to be nervous going into tonight’s vote count. It is not unlikely that Sweden’s most pro-EU party will achieve its worst-ever election result on the national level (4.7%) since its creation more than a century ago, and it risks losing both its seats in the European Parliament if it fails to attract more than the 4% threshold of voters required for Swedish parties to win a seat.