The exit poll by public broadcaster SVT showed the Islam-bashing Sweden Democrats party could play a kingmaker role, with no clear majority for the governing coalition or the left-wing opposition.
But a forecast based on partial official results showed Prime Minister Fredrik Reinfeldt’s government clinging to a one-seat majority in the 349-seat legislature.
The prime minister was trying to do what no center-right government has ever done before in the Scandinavian welfare nation – get re-elected after serving a full term. Until the last election in 2006, Sweden was dominated since the 1930s by the left-wing Social Democrats.
The exit poll gave Reinfeldt’s four-party coalition 49.1% of the vote compared to 45.1% for the Social Democrat-led opposition.
The anti-immigration Sweden Democrats party got 4.6% according to the exit poll.
Such a result could lead to a hung Parliament, because both blocs have ruled out governing with the Sweden Democrats, who want sharp cuts in immigration and have called Islam Sweden’s biggest foreign threat since World War II.
The SVT exit poll was based 12,000 voter interviews and has an error margin of 2 percentage points.
An election day opinion poll by Novus Opinion and the TV4 network predicted a similar outcome, but put the Sweden Democrats just 0.1 percentage points above the 4% bar to win a seat in Parliament. Official results were expected late last night.
“If this result stands we will have an uncertain situation,” said Per Schlingmann, a spokesman for the prime minister’s Moderate Party.
Sweden Democrats spokesman Bjorn Soder called the exit poll numbers “very positive”.