An exit polls by public broadcaster SVT suggested the centre-right Alliance got 39.6% of the vote, slightly more than the Social Democrats on 39.4%. In the immediate aftermath of the result, many reactions therefore focused on whether the result was a breakthrough for the party, or whether it should rank as a disappointment given some polls during the campaign had put the Sweden Democrats as high as 25% of the vote, in first place ahead of the Social Democrats.
Results were based on 99% of the vote confirmed and will not be finalized until Wednesday when overseas votes are counted.
"We are going to gain real influence over Swedish politics", he told cheering supporters at an election night party.
Social Democratic Prime Minister Stefan Löfven's red-green left bloc now has a razor-thin one-seat lead over the centre-right opposition Alliance, with almost 200,000 ballots from Swedes who voted overseas still to be counted on Wednesday.
The country now faces weeks of uncertainty as both blocs engage in frantic horse-trading to try to form the next government.
Lofven said he would remain in office in the coming weeks and called for cooperation across the political divide.
Parliament opens on September 25.
Akesson was jubilant as he addressed supporters a day later, declaring the estimated 14 parliament seats the Social Democrats picked up a victory other parties could not ignore in coalition negotiations. Yet as the English-language Swedish news site thelocal.se concluded in its liveblog of the results, while the election was inconclusive, it is worth remembering "that if there is anything the Swedes are good at, it's finding compromises where you think there are none".
But the Moderates - the biggest party in the Alliance - are not interested in cooperating with the Social Democrats and such a deal would also raise questions about democratic accountability.
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The Sweden Democrats will likely continue to influence the country's politics as talks begin for forming the next government.
Since 2015, the center-left government has sharply restricted immigration, but many Swedes complain that society can not cope with integrating so many newcomers, many of them Muslims from Africa and the Middle East.
Voters in Sweden appear to be split in an unpredictable general election that may turn into one of the most thrilling races in the Scandinavian country's history for decades amid heated debate on immigration. The Left Party was happy to take 7.9% of the vote, a 2.2% increase on previous form.
However, the party's results did not meet expectations ratcheted up by exit polls predicting it would become Sweden's second-biggest party. So it would have to be some sort of government that had the participation or support of the Social Democrats and maybe the Greens too.
"Of course I was hoping for more", Tobias Andersson, the head of the Sweden Democrats' youth wing and a candidate for parliament, said late Sunday night, "but still I consider us to be winners in this election, considering we are the party that gained the most new voters". We suffered from the refugee crisis in 2015.
Yesterday's Communist Party of Sweden is now known as the Left Party-a perfectly respectable party that campaigned in alliance with the Social Democrats.
Tuva Sundh, who also cast her vote Sunday, said she was concerned about integration.
For others, however, the Sweden Democrats are not the answer. "I will work on calmly, as prime minister, respecting voters and the Swedish electoral system", he said. Thankfully for them, their most important rival - the center-right Moderate Party - also had a relatively poor showing, losing 3.5 percent of its 2014 vote despite considerable problems faced by the governing coalition.