Opinion polls show Social Democrat PM Andersson's centre-left and the right-wing bloc running neck-and-neck in the elections marked by crime and a cost-of-living crisis.

Andersson (L) met her opponent Ulf Kristersson (R), leader of the Moderate Party, during a debate in Stockholm.
Andersson (L) met her opponent Ulf Kristersson (R), leader of the Moderate Party, during a debate in Stockholm. (Tt news agency / AP)

Swedes vote in an election pitting the incumbent centre-left Social Democrats against a right-wing bloc that has embraced the anti-immigration Sweden Democrats in a bid to win back power after eight years in opposition.

Uncertainty looms large over the election on Sunday, with both blocs facing long and hard negotiations to form a government in a polarised and emotionally-charged political landscape. Polling stations close at 1800 GMT.

With steadily growing numbers of shootings unnerving voters, campaigning has seen parties battle to be the toughest on gang crime.

Meanwhile, surging inflation and the energy crisis in the wake of the conflict in Ukraine have increasingly taken centre stage.

Opinion polls show the centre-left running neck-and-neck with the right-wing bloc, where the Sweden Democrats look to have recently overtaken the Moderates as the second biggest party behind the Social Democrats.

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Andersson vs Kristersson

Gathering economic storm clouds as households and companies face sky-high power prices may boost Social Democratic Prime Minister Magdalena Andersson.

"My clear message is: during the pandemic we supported Swedish companies and households. I will act in the exact same way again if I get your renewed confidence," she said this week in one of the final debates ahead of the vote.

Andersson was finance minister for many years before becoming Sweden's first female prime minister a year ago. Her main rival is Moderates' leader Ulf Kristersson, who sees himself as the only one who can unite the right and unseat her.

"We will prioritise law and order, making it profitable to work and build new climate-smart nuclear power," Kristersson said in a video posted by his party. "Simply put, we want to sort Sweden out."

Kristersson has spent years deepening ties with the Sweden Democrats, an anti-immigration party with white supremacists among its founders.

Initially shunned by all the other parties, Jimmie Akesson's Sweden Democrats are now increasingly part of the mainstream right.

For many centre-left voters - and even some on the right - the prospect of Sweden Democrats having a say on government policy or joining the cabinet remains deeply unsettling, and the election is seen in part as a referendum over whether to give them that power.

Kristersson wants to form a government with the small Christian Democrats and, possibly, the Liberals, and only rely on Sweden Democrat support in parliament. But those are assurances the centre-left don't take at face value.

Andersson, on the other hand, will need to get support from the Centre Party and the Left, who are ideological opposites, and probably the Green Party as well, if she wants a second term as prime minister.

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Source: Reuters