Sweden explores options for new government

MARKKU OJALA

Swedish Prime Minister Stefan Lofven attends a press conference after morning discussions on the second day of the Nordic Prime Ministers annual informal summer meeting in Aland, Finland, 28 September 2016.

Sweden explores options for new government


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Sweden’s Social Democratic Prime Minister Stefan Löfven is not stepping down, but he is likely to lose a confidence vote in parliament unless he breaks the ranks of the opposition.

However, he is likely to secure the support needed.

Who will be Sweden’s prime minister

The vote of Confidence is October 8, which sets the first significant deadline for post-electoral negotiations in Sweden.

The leader of the opposition centre-right Alliance, Ulf Kristersson, has demanded Löfven’s resignation on election night. Once again on Monday afternoon, the Secretary of the Moderate Party Gunnar Strömmer questioned Löfven’s legitimacy as a prime minister. The Moderates believe they should have the chance to lead a government, perhaps with the support of the Social Democrats.

Overall, there will be four attempts at forming a government before Sweden returns to the polls.

Parliamentary balance of power

The political deadlock is clear. The centre-left narrowly won the elections with less than 0,5% margin, which translates to a single advantage seat. With most of the votes counted, the centre-left has a combined 40,6% share of the vote, against 40,3% for the centre-right. Given the narrow margin of the lead, the expatriate vote may yet change the balance of power.

A majority in Sweden requires 175 seats in a 349-seat parliament.

If nothing dramatic happens, the centre-left will control 144 seats in parliament versus 143 sears for the centre-right Alliance.  The nationalist, Eurosceptic and anti-migrant Sweden Democrats have 62 seats.

Neither the centre-left nor the centre-right are willing to consider an alliance with the Sweden Democrats, whose neo-Nazi background makes them a “toxic” coalition partner.

The Danish Scenario

The former leader of the Moderate party, Anna Kinberg Batraproposed a Danish or Norwegian strategy in 2017, contemplating a tactical alliance with the Swedish Democrats. However, unlike the Danish People’s Party and the Norwegian Progress Party, the Swedish Democrats were founded as a platform for neo-Nazi organisations in the 1980s, many of its historical leaders belonged to the SS, and many of his current candidates “own up” to a background of white supremacy.  That is why the choice made by the Moderates in 2017 cost them dearly: they saw their polling freefall and Batra was forced to resign.

Now, Akesson challenges the new leader of the Moderates and aspirant prime minister, Ulf Kristersson, to choose between support from the Sweden Democrats and four more years of Lofven as prime minister. The problem with this rationale is that Akesson has not mastered under an 18% share of the vote and his support would not suffice to make Kristersson a prime minister.

“The numbers aren’t actually the most important thing, but rather our relationship to the other parties,” Jimmie Akesson told Swedish Radio.

Unless the Moderates do decide to engage with the Sweden Democrats, the only two scenarios are forming an unstable minority government or breaking the ranks of one of the two coalitions.

The centre-right alliance is the weakest.

Points of friction

The Moderates are not interested in a government they do not lead but can rely on the Christian Democrats, whose leader, Ebba Busch, has publicly turned down an invitation to talk to the Social Democrats.

But, there are two more parties in the Alliance that are quite open to joining a coalition led by the Social Democrats. The Liberals will not enter a coalition government with the Left Party but do not object to sharing power with the Greens. The Centre Party has not publicly committed to the same line but have talked about the need for cross-bloc cooperation.

The Social Democrats are not only the biggest party, but also only party that can look for allies at the right and the left of the political spectrum. In this context, the prospects of a center-right government in Sweden are dim.

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