Sept. 10 (UPI) -- Sweden's nationalist party solidified itself as a legitimate third party, while the establishment left and right parties virtually tied in closely-contested elections Sunday.
The governing center-left coalition gained about 40 percent of the vote, while the center-right group attracted the same amount of support. Making significant gains was the Sweden Democrats Party -- which is riding a wave of anti-immigration sentiment not only in Sweden but also other European Union countries. It garnered 18 percent of Sunday's vote, up from 13 percent in the last election.
Due to the close contests, the parties must now work together to form a government. Sweden uses a proportional representation form of government where seats are allocated based on the share of the vote.
Prime Minister Stefan Lovfven's Social Democrats Party has a coalition with the Green and Left parties. The group maintained a one-seat lead, but fell short of the 175 seats needed to govern. They will have to negotiate with the right-wing parties to find a workable government.
"We have two weeks left until parliament opens," Lofven said. "I will work on calmly, as prime minister, respecting voters and the Swedish electoral system."
Nicholas Aylott, a political science professor at Sodertorn University, said 200,000 overseas ballots won't be counted until Wednesday, so the final results likely won't be known for days.
Whatever the outcome, getting all parties to work together could be a challenge.
"That frankly, is an extremely implausible scenario -- why would the Left bloc consent to an Alliance government when the Left bloc is actually a touch bigger than the Alliance?" Aylott questioned. "Much more plausible, I think, is that the Social Democrats either stay where they are or the government will resign and allow the negotiations to begin."
Aylott said it will be difficult for mainstream parties to treat the Sweden Democrats as equals.
"They're not a very old party, they were only formed at the end of the [1980s] and they have roots in overtly racist, Neo-Nazi organizations," Aylott said. "That history means something, no matter how much the party professors to have changed and maybe really has changed."
The party, once linked to neo-Nazis and other far-right groups, attracts working class men but has made strides to attract more women and higher-income voters. The country has recently seen an influx of immigrants that Sweden Democrats say puts a strain on social services.
Party leader Jimmie Akesson, though, said the group has zero tolerance for racism and that several members have been expelled.
Emboldened by Britain's bold exit from the European Union in 2016, the Sweden Democrats are pushing for a "Swexit" referendum of their own.
"We will increase our seats in parliament and we will gain huge influence over what happens in Sweden during the coming weeks, months and years," Akesson said at a party rally.