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Voters head to polls in Sweden in tight election marked concerns about crime, energy

This photo combo shows Sweden’s leading opposition figure Ulf Kristersson (L) and Prime Minister Magdalena Andersson.

Swedish voters have headed to polls in a close-run election amid concerns about increased crime and an energy crisis.

Polling stations opened at 8:00 am (0600 GMT) and will close at 8:00 pm on Sunday.

The election pits the incumbent Magdalena Andersson against prime ministerial candidate Ulf Kristersson.

"As it stands, we have two fairly clear blocs," political scientist Katarina Barrling told AFP, noting it should be fairly easy to predict the next prime minister after election night.

However, both blocs are beset by internal divisions that could make for laborious negotiations to build a coalition government.

Andersson, who began her tenure with a bumpy ride and initially resigned just hours after she was appointed, represents the Social Democrats and the left bloc in the country.

She was finance minister for many years before becoming Sweden's first female prime minister a year ago.

"My clear message is: during the pandemic we supported Swedish companies and households. I will act in the exact same way again if I get your renewed confidence," she said this week in one of the final debates ahead of the vote.

Speaking to reporters at a rally on the eve of the vote, she said she hoped she had convinced voters "that the Social Democrats are a party for ordinary people, for workers, with good safety nets, good jobs and a good future."

The Social Democrat Party has dominated Swedish politics since the 1930s and enjoys broad support among Swedes.

Andersson's main rival is Kristersson, the Moderates' leader, who sees himself as the linchpin of the rightwing groups.

He expects to gain the support of white supremacists, including Jimmie Akesson's Sweden Democrats and the two other small right-wing parties, the Christian Democrats and to a lesser extent the Liberals.

"We will prioritize law and order, making it profitable to work and build new climate-smart nuclear power," Kristersson said in a video posted by his party. "Simply put, we want to sort Sweden out."

Meanwhile, the rise of gang violence, spreading from big cities to small-town Sweden, coupled with sky-high energy prices have been the main source of concern for voters.

Read more:
Sweden toughens sentences for young over gang crime rise
Sweden: Europe might face 'serious disruptions' over energy crisis

"I think that times are really tumultuous and people have a hard time figuring out what's going on," Pediatrician Erik George, 52, said outside a voting station.

"It's important to not get the far right into the system," insisted 34-year-old IT worker Erwin Marklund at a voting station set up in Stockholm's Central Station.

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