Sweden’s ruling party has had its worst ever election result as the nationalist group Sweden Democrats made significant gains in the vote, preliminary results showed.
After a campaign dominated by debates over immigration, the centre-left Social Democrat Party, the current ruling party, emerged with the greatest share of the vote - 28.4 percent - but holds fewer parliament seats and its mandate questioned.
Prime Minister Stefan Lofven, who brought the Social Democrats to power in 2014, said he intended to remain in the job.
The leader of the Moderates party that came in second, Ulf Kristersson, has called for Mr Lofven to resign and claimed the right to form the next government.
The anti-immigration Sweden Democrats took 17.6 percent of the votes putting the party in third place.
Mr Lofven told his supporters that the election presented “a situation that all responsible parties must deal with”, adding that “party with roots in Nazism” would “never ever offer anything responsible, but hatred”.
He added: “We have a moral responsibility. We must gather all good forces. We won't mourn, we will organise ourselves," he said.
Final election returns were expected later in the week.
‘Everything is about us’
The preliminary results made it unlikely any party would secure a majority of 175 seats in the 349-seat Riksdag, Sweden’s parliament. It could take weeks of coalition talks before the next government is formed.
Both the left-leaning bloc led by the Social Democrats and the centre-right bloc in which the Moderates is largest of four parties have said they would not consider the Sweden Democrats as a coalition partner.
Sunday’s general election was the first since the country of 10 million took in a record 163,000 refugees in 2015 as mass migration to Europe rose dramatically.
At the Sweden Democrats’ election rally on Saturday, party leader Jimmie Akesson criticised Mr Lofven’s government for “prioritising” the needs of new immigrants over Swedish citizens.
Mr Akesson addressed supporters on Sunday, declaring the estimated 14 parliament seats the Sweden Democrats picked up a victory other parties could not ignore in coalition negotiations.
He added: “This party has increased and made the biggest gains. Everything is about us.
“I am ready to talk with others.”
Turnout in the election was reported at 84.4 percent, up from 83 percent in 2014.