The moderates, Sweden Democrats, Christian Democrats and Liberals appear poised for 176 seats in the 349-seat parliament versus the centre-left’s 173, according to the latest figures from the election authority.
There are still a few votes to count, but the outcome is unlikely to change significantly.
“I will now start working on forming a new government that can get things done,” Christerson said in a video on his Instagram account.
The election marks a watershed in Swedish politics with the anti-immigration Sweden Democrats, a party with roots in the white supremacist fringe, on the threshold of gaining influence over government policy.
The success of the party, which took charge of Kristerson’s moderate party as the country’s second-largest party, has raised concerns that Sweden’s tolerant and inclusive politics is becoming a thing of the past.
However, their mantra that Sweden’s ills – notably gang crime – are the result of decades of overly generous immigration policies that have struck home with many voters.
Christerson said he would establish a government “for all of Sweden and for all citizens”.
“There is great frustration in society, fear of violence, anxiety about the economy, the world is very uncertain and political polarization is also becoming very large in Sweden,” he said. “So my message is that I want to unite, not divide.”
Although Kristerson’s party is smaller, Swedish Democratic Party leader Jimmy Akesson cannot garner the broad right-wing support necessary to oust the Social Democrats.
Kristerson is likely to try to form a government with the Christian Democrats and draw on support in parliament from the Swedish Democrats and liberals.
Prime Minister Andersen accepted defeat, but warned that many Swedes were concerned about the success of the Swedish Democrats’ election.
“I see your concern and I share it,” she said.
The Swedish Democrats aim to make Sweden the strictest in the European Union on immigration policy, including legislation that makes it possible to reject people seeking asylum on the basis of religion or LGBTQ grounds.
The party wants to reduce the economic benefits of immigrants and give more powers to the police, including areas in troubled regions allowing searches without concrete suspicion of a crime.
It appears that the Swedish Democrats will receive 20.6% of the vote against 19.1% for the moderates. The proportion of the Social Democrats will be 30.4%.
Christerson, who commands a slim majority, faces a number of challenges, not least the fact of the status of his small party.
Forming an administration and approving a budget will not be easy because the Swedish Liberals and Democrats refuse to work together – or separately – in government and differ on many policies.
“Sweden will now have an administration that is only one or two seats away from the government crisis,” Anderson said.
She said her door was open to Kristerson if he wanted to rethink his alliance with the Swedish Democrats.
In addition, Sweden is in the midst of a cost-of-living crisis and could head into a recession next year.
Russia’s war in Ukraine has destabilized the Baltic region – Sweden’s backyard – and uncertainty remains over whether Turkey will finally agree to Stockholm’s application for NATO membership.
Measures to tackle climate change and long-term energy policy must also be eliminated, while the gaps in the social welfare system exposed by the pandemic must be filled and the planned increase in defense spending funded.
The result has yet to be officially confirmed, possibly by the end of the week.