Sweden woke Monday to the prospect of weeks of political uncertainty after the country's two rival blocs failed to secure a clear governing majority in elections that saw a boost for a far-right party amid growing discontent with large-scale immigration.
Young members of the Sweden Democrats react to the results of the exit polls at their party election centre on Sunday.
Partial results, with some 80 per cent of districts counted, showed the ruling centre-left Social Democrats and Greens and their Left Party parliamentary allies winning 40.6 per cent of the vote, while the opposition centre-right Alliance had won 40.1 per cent.
"We wanted to see a better result, there's no doubt about that".
Still, the Swedish election underscored a broader shift to the right in one of Europe's most socially progressive nations.
Today Mr Karlsson is its parliamentary leader, the intellectual engine behind the party's reinvention as a populist force for social conservatism and a kingmaker in waiting, ready to compel the government to dance to his tune.
With a steady rise in popularity of the Sweden Democrats, immigration has become the hot topic of the election.
"Most signs pointed towards the Sweden Democrats taking over the position as the second-biggest party in Sweden".
Leader of the Sweden Democrats Jimmie Åkesson had boasted his party would take more than 20% of the vote but still told a party rally the result was a victory.
"In Sweden we live in a false dictatorship because none of the other parties will ever let the Sweden Democrats have any power", he complained, as his colleague Adin shook his head in amused disagreement.
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Opening day is exciting for Marcus Cannon, too, but no more so than all of the other games which he says also quite exciting. And I think I'm not ready to say that I'm done because I don't feel like I am. "I just love being a part of it".
That could prove fatal for the Alliance, with the Liberal and Centre parties repeatedly ruling out a deal with the far right.
During a heated debate Friday evening of party leaders, Akesson caused a stir by blaming migrants for the difficulties they often have in finding employment and not adjusting to Sweden.
The prime minister is usually the leader of the party with the most votes, but Sweden's fragmented political landscape after Sunday's election makes it impossible to predict who will form the next government.
What about a right-wing government excluding the two smaller centrist parties?
"I think we are facing an extremely complicated process to form a government, maybe the most complicated in modern times", said political scientist Niklas Bohlin at the Mid Sweden University. "We won't mourn, we will organize ourselves", he said. The votes of Swedes overseas have not yet been counted, there could be 200,000 votes and we won't get the final vote until Wednesday, so it really is going to be a nailbiter.
Swedes go to the polls in legislative elections Sunday, with the far-right expected to post a record score as voters unhappy about immigration punish one of the few remaining left-wing governments in Europe. So it would have to be some sort of government that had the participation or support of the Social Democrats and maybe the Greens too.
If the Sweden Democrats were included in the conservative bloc, there would be a large conservative majority in this election.
"Historically it has been always been this way in Sweden", he said. They're not a very old party, they were only formed at the end of the eighties, and they have roots in overtly racist, Neo-Nazi organisations.
It made its first mark in politics with municipal council seats in 2006, and since then slowly helped revise long-accepted social norms for what Swedes could say openly about foreigners and integration without being considered racist. "What will happen to me if they enter government or gain influence", asked Mohammad, an 18-year-old Afghan refugee who spoke ideal Swedish when interviewed by AFP.