The leaders of Sweden’s main left and rightwing parliamentary blocs have staked claims to form the next government, heralding weeks or months of fraught negotiations after an election that left them almost tied and far short of a majority amid gains by both the far right and smaller parties.

The incumbent prime minister, Stefan Löfven, whose Social Democrats remained the largest party with 28.4% of the vote, its lowest score for a century, refused opposition calls to resign and said he would take two weeks before the next parliamentary vote to try to build a cross-bloc coalition that would avoid the growing influence of the populist, anti-immigrant Sweden Democrats.

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