Stockholm: A Social Democrat-led coalition appeared to be heading for victory in Sweden's general election today, with an exit poll as voting closed also showing major gains for the far-right Sweden Democrats.
The Social Democrat-led red-green group, which also includes the Green and Left parties, was tipped to get 44.8 percent of the vote, according to the poll by public broadcaster SVT, while the anti-immigration Sweden Democrats were on 10.5 per cent, doubling their vote from the last election four years ago.
The centre-right four-party coalition which has ruled Sweden for the past eight years was slated to get 39.7 percent, the exit poll indicated.
If pollsters are right, Sweden's next prime minister is likely to be Stefan Loefven, a 57-year-old former trade unionist with almost no experience in national politics.
Loefven has campaigned on a promise to narrow a growing income gap that has many in traditionally egalitarian Sweden worried. He has also vowed to improve the educational system and spend more on infrastructure.
The result would be a major triumph for the Sweden Democrats and their 35-year-old leader Jimmie Aakesson, who has grown the party from a virtual non-entity less than a decade ago.
The party, which entered parliament for the first time in 2010, has tapped unease among many Swedes about a growing influx of refugees.
Incumbent prime minister Fredrik Reinfeldt, 49, has been widely praised for his leadership during the global financial crisis.
If he is now pushed out of power, it will reflect a yearning among the Swedes for change, after eight years with the same faces in power, say observers.