Last Sunday Sweden held its general election and in the preliminary result the centre-right parties in the Alliance won the largest support, 49.3 per cent, compared to 43.7 per cent for the centre-left Red-Green coalition.
The anti-immigration party the Sweden Democrats was able to gain 5.7 per cent, and will thus take seats in the Parliament.
This means that the Alliance will have to try to form a minority government. However, there is a small but yet a chance that the absent ballots, the last postal and expat votes, could give the Alliance an absolute majority. The final election result will be fully counted late tonight or tomorrow.
But the preliminary election result already show that history has been written, in several ways:
• The Social Democratic Party made their worst result, 30.9 per cent, since 1914.
• The Moderate Party (liberal-conservative) made their best result, 30 per cent, since 1914.
• This is the second time since the introduction of universal suffrage a centre-right government has been re-elected for a second term. But (if there is no re-election) it will be the longest coherent period of centre-right governing, with eight years from 2006 to 2014.
• This is the first time a party with roots in openly racist movements, the Sweden Democrats, takes seats in the Swedish Parliament
A new Sweden taking shape?
Many have speculated in what an election result like this would mean. Does it say something that the Social Democrats, who has dominated much of Sweden's political life since WW2, has made their worst result in 96 years? Is this the end of Sweden's cradle-to-the-grave welfare state and the "Swedish model"?
Yes, and no. What is clear is that Sweden's Social Democratic Party really have some soul searching to do. The 2006 election result, where the party got 34.99 per cent, they themselves described as "a catastrophe".
A process of debate and renewal was initiated, but due to early success in the opinion polls, this stopped early on. With a new catastrophic election result, the hope among many centre-right strategist has come true; the Social Democrats are no longer the party who 'subscribes to governmental power'.
But that does not mean that Sweden is living through some Thatcherite era, nor that there is some sort of Tea Party movement going on in the country.
What the centre-right Alliance has succeeded with is to show, firstly, that a coalition with centre-right parties can stay together for a full term, secondly, that the welfare state can be trimmed and taxes lowered without this leading to the sky falling down, and thirdly, and perhaps most important, the centre-right coalition proved to be able to take Sweden through an economic crisis with the state finances intact.
What can be said to have happened is that Sweden has become somewhat normalised, or Europeanised. As in many other European countries the electorate has diversified, become a bit more right-leaning, and the influence of traditional social democracy have withered.
An anti-immigration party in the parliament is also something that Sweden now has common with other European countries.
What will happen now?
Since the Alliance did not reach an absolute majority, Moderate leader Fredrik Reinfeldt has invited the Green Party (who was able to become third largest party with 7.2 per cent in support), to talks. They have so far turned down the offer.
If this does not work out, the Alliance can govern with minority power. Since constitutional amendments made in the 1990s, a minority government has a very good chance to get through with the most important policy decisions, such as the budget bills.
The government would then have to rely on passive support from the Red-Green opposition, and hope that they do not vote against the government along with the Sweden Democrats. But, if there would be to many and to large drawbacks for the government, the Alliance would be forced to declare an re-election.
The political situation is not completely stable, also this is something quite unusual for Sweden. Thus, also this is an example of political history and normalisation of Sweden's political life.