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In Early Results, Far-Right Make Gains in Sweden


People pick ballot papers at a polling station during a general election in Stockholm, Sweden, Sept. 9, 2018.

Preliminary results from Sweden's parliamentary election Sunday found one of Europe's liberal nations taking a decided turn to the right.

The anti-immigration Sweden Democrats, which wants the country to leave the European Union and put a freeze on immigration, appeared poised to become the third largest party in parliament.

With most ballots counted, the ruling center-left Social Democrats had 28 percent of the vote, trailed by the Moderates with 19 percent and the nationalist Sweden Democrats with almost 18 percent.

Sweden Democrats leader Jimmie Akesson declared victory at a supporters' rally saying, "We will gain huge influence over what happens in Sweden during the coming weeks, months and years".

Ahead of the election, Prime Minister Stefan Lofven had warned, "The haters are mobilizing in Sweden and are egging on people against people. ... We will resist. We will stand up for equality."

Sweden, like most of Europe, has been hit by an influx of asylum-seekers, who are fleeing mainly from the Middle East, South Asia and Africa.

The influx of 163,000 asylum-seekers in Sweden in 2015 has polarized voters and fractured a cozy political consensus.

Pollsters say the growing popularity of the Sweden Democrats, a party with roots in the neo-Nazi fringe, could result in the far-right group winning veto power over which parties form the next government.

Magnus Blomgren a social scientist at Umea University, says, "Traditional parties have failed to respond to the sense of discontent that exists."