Nationalist Rise Has Sweden Headed for Gridlock After Election

(Bloomberg) -- Sweden’s nationalists are cementing their support at near 20 percent as the country heads for an election in September that is all but certain to end in gridlock.

The anti-immigrant Sweden Democrats (SD) were backed by 18.5 percent of potential voters, up 5.6 percentage points from the election in 2014, a closely watched biannual poll from the country’s statistics office showed on Tuesday.

The biggest loser was the ruling Social Democrats, who fell 2.7 percentage points to 28.3 percent. That would be the worst result since Sweden’s first fully democratic election in 1921, and a big blow for a party that for decades won more than 40 percent of the vote.

Growing regional inequalities are fostering support for SD, according to Li Bennich-Bjorkman, a political science professor at the University of Uppsala. “I think they can increase even more up to the elections,” she said. “My guess is that many who today say that they are going to vote for the Social Democrats will leave the party for SD in the elections.”

Both sides of political spectrum have refused to work with the party, which has neo-Nazi roots. Led by Jimmie Akesson, the group has cleaned up its image and first entered parliament in 2010 and has since surged in the polls after Sweden was flooded with immigrants during the refugee crisis.

While the poll was bad news for the Social Democrats, it wasn’t happy reading for the four-party opposition Alliance either. The largest opposition party, the Moderates, fell 0.7 percentage point to 22.6 percent while the Christian Democrats were below the 4 percent needed to get into parliament.

The poll suggests the Alliance would win 38.6 percent of the vote, while the Social Democrats and its support parties would secure 40 percent.

The survey was built on responses from 4,632 people between April 27 and May 29. The margin of error was between 0.4 percentage point and 0.8 percentage point.

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