Sweden holds elections on Sunday to choose lawmakers for the 349-seat Riksdag as well as local offices across the country of 10 million people.
Early voting began on August 24, so many people will have already voted on Election Day.
Here are some key things to know about voting.
Prime Minister Magdalena Andersson is fighting to keep her centre-left Social Democrats at the head of a left-wing coalition, but faces a strong challenge from the right.
Sweden is known for being a cradle-to-grave welfare society and Ms. Andersson would like to preserve the social protections that have long defined Sweden and reverse some of the market-oriented changes of a previous government. His party believes some of the changes, such as state subsidies to private schools, are creating more inequality.
The powerful Social Democrats have been in power since 2014. But as the party’s popularity sinks from its 20th-century heyday, it has been forced to preside over a weaker government that relies more on other parties to pass laws, a situation that has produced political instability over the past eight years.
— Who is likely to win?
There are two large blocks, with four matches on the left and four on the right. Pre-election polls showed the two blocs in an almost dead heat, with the outcome impossible to predict.
According to Swedish law, it is up to the party that wins the most seats to form a government. Polls show this is likely to be Ms Andersson’s party, in which case it would be up to her to first try to form a coalition government with majority support in the legislature.
But if the left as a whole is poorly represented, it might not be able to form a coalition. In this case, the relay would pass to the second party to try to form a government.
– Which party is in second place?
In the last elections, in 2018, the Moderates led by Ulf Kristersson, a centre-right party, won the second number of seats. The Conservative party promotes a market economy, lower taxes and a smaller role for government in a country with a generous welfare state supported by high taxes.
But like the Social Democrats and many other mainstream parties in Europe, the moderates have also seen their popularity with voters decline amid a populist challenge from the far right.
-Who are the populists?
The Sweden Democrats, a right-wing populist party that takes a hard line on immigration and crime, first entered Parliament in 2010 and has grown steadily since then.
The party won 13% of the vote in 2018, becoming the third largest force in parliament. Polls show that Sunday’s showing is likely to improve.
Some Swedes describe the party as Trumpist and are put off by the fact that it was founded by far-right extremists decades ago, and are unsure whether to trust it with its transformation into a more traditional conservative party.
The party is led by Jimmie Akesson, a 43-year-old former web designer who has been the driving force behind trying to moderate the party’s image.
However, the party has clearly taken advantage of the social mood. Its success can also be measured by the fact that other parties have come around to its positions, as many Swedes feel they can no longer bear the costs of the generous refugee policies of the past and seek a crackdown on crime.
Once treated as a pariah, other conservative parties have become increasingly willing to deal with the Sweden Democrats.
– How serious is crime in Sweden?
Some of the immigrants who have been welcomed to Sweden in recent years have had difficulty assimilating into Swedish society, which has led to segregated neighborhoods with high crime rates.
Gang violence occurs primarily between criminal networks that traffic drugs or engage in other illicit activities. But recently there have been cases of innocent bystanders being injured. So far this year, 48 people have died from firearms in Sweden, three more than in all of 2021.
Fears fueled by constant news of shootings and explosions in underprivileged neighborhoods have made crime one of the most pressing issues for voters.
“Shooting and bomb blasts have increased in recent years and (this violence) is now considered a major social problem. I wouldn’t say it’s as bad as Mexico, but we’re on our way,” said Anders Sannerstedt, a political scientist at Lund University in southern Sweden.
Ms. Andersson became Sweden’s first female prime minister less than a year ago, a late-arriving milestone for a country that in many ways exemplifies gender equality.
“I was very proud,” said Ulrika Hoonk, a 39-year-old who voted in Stockholm on Friday evening, saying it had taken “too long” for it to happen.
Polls show that Andersson’s party is particularly popular among women, and men tend to vote more conservative.
Although Ms. Andersson is the first prime minister, there are still many women represented in positions of authority. Four party leaders are women and one party has a woman and a man sharing leadership. In parliament, the gender balance has long been split 50-50.
Several women interviewed this week said finally having a woman in a top leadership position was very important to them, and a factor they considered when choosing which party to support.