How defeat unfolded at the Moderates' election HQ

3:26 min

The ruling conservative Moderates, who shed almost a quarter of the public support they'd won in 2010, conceded the election on Sunday night, at their election HQ in the heart of Stockholm.

Opinion polls had indicated for a while that their Alliance government would get voted out, but the gap between the two blocs had been narrowing. 

It was a well-heeled crowd that stood in anticipation of the results from Swedish Television's key exit poll. The room fell silent during the countdown, and the mood was grim as the party members absorbed the bad news: that it looked like fewer than a quarter of Swedes had voted for them, and their bloc had 5 percent less than the red-green opposition parties.

Defense Minister Karin Enström was not ready to admit defeat at this point.

"I am waiting for the real result, that's what really matters," she told Radio Sweden. She felt her coalition had been successful in foreign affairs, defense, economic, and financial policy, but said, "of course at the end, the voters decide."

The figures were quickly starting to cement as the votes were being counted, and Justice Minister Beatrice Ask seemed concerned.

"Of course, we are not happy about the result. We expected a better result than this, but on the other hand, it goes up and down in politics, and that's the reality," she said to Radio Sweden.

Around a quarter after 11, the room fell silent again, and the crowd drew around the stage as if it were a magnet. Prime Minister Fredrik Reinfeldt arrived and he was hailed with applause.

"The election is over. The Swedish people have made their decision," he announced, and with few words, the man who had led Sweden in a non-Social Democratic-led government for the longest stretch in the country's history: 8 years, conceded.

Then he delivered the final blow to the party: that in the spring, he would be stepping down as their leader.

"Noooo!" a disappointed crowd responded, and there were tears, though Stockholm Moderate MP, Johan Forsell, stayed dry-eyed.

"It's a very sad day for my party of course, but also for Sweden," Forsell told Radio Sweden. "Mr. Reinfeldt has been . . . highly respected, not only within Sweden but also all across Europe and the western world," he added.

"The most important legacy is that we managed to win the election in 2006 and we managed to get reelected the election after. In a country like Sweden, that is historic," said Forsell. "We lost the election tonight, but the opposition hasn't won, and we will see what happens now. It is not impossible that we need to have a new election (soon)."

Brett Ascarelli / Radio Sweden