Swe­den: Ste­fan

Cen­tre-left head­ing back to power after four-month post-elec­tion stale­mate So­cial Democrats to lead mi­nor­ity govern­ment as far-right party frozen out

The Irish Times - - Front Page - DEREK SCALLY in Ber­lin

Lofven is set to stay on as prime min­is­ter fol­low­ing a four-month post-elec­tion stale­mate

Swe­den’s cen­tre-left is head­ing back to power, end­ing a four-month post-elec­tion stale­mate, after strik­ing a con­fi­dence-and-sup­ply deal with cen­tre-right po­lit­i­cal ri­vals.

The deal will al­low Swedish So­cial Demo­cratic Party leader Ste­fan Lofven to stay on as prime min­is­ter, but at the mercy of ide­o­log­i­cal op­po­nents across the floor of Stock­holm’s Riks­dag par­lia­ment.

After days of in­tense ne­go­ti­a­tions, Mr Lofven will gov­ern again with Greens, thanks to the Lib­er­als and Cen­tre par­ties, both tra­di­tional mem­bers of the right-wing “Al­liance”.

They have agreed to ab­stain next week in a vote to re-elect Mr Lofven. Swe­den’s sys­tem of neg­a­tive par­lia­men­tar­i­an­ism al­lows a mi­nor­ity govern­ment to rule once it avoids a par­lia­men­tary ma­jor­ity against it.

“Our par­ties have dif­fer­ent ide­o­log­i­cal start­ing points but are united in the prin­ci­ples of democ­racy,” the re­spec­tive po­lit­i­cal lead­ers said an­nounc­ing the deal, to be voted on by their re­spec­tive par­ties over the week­end.

Con­ces­sions

It re­mains to be seen what price the Lib­er­als and Greens ex­tract from the Swedish So­cial Democrats – and whether it will put off the Left Party, an­other “pas­sive” sup­porter of the cen­tre-left coali­tion last time around. Early in­di­ca­tions are that Mr Lofven will grant them con­ces­sions on looser labour law and an end to hous­ing al­lowances.

After sev­eral failed at­tempts, the de­vel­op­ment gives Swe­den back a work­ing govern­ment, fol­low­ing four months of limbo, and cur­tails the po­lit­i­cal in­flu­ence of the far-right Swe­den Democrats (SD).

The pop­ulist SD’s elec­tion surge saw the other cen­tre-left and cen­tre-right blocs ef­fec­tively dead­locked when polls closed, with just one seat be­tween them. While the con­ser­va­tive Mod­er­ates, leader of the cen­tre-right “Al­liance”, were open to talks with the SD, this was blocked by its tra­di­tional Cen­tre and Lib­eral al­lies.

This op­po­si­tion put the two smaller par­ties in a king-maker po­si­tion – but handed them a dilemma. In par­tic­u­lar, Cen­tre party leader An­nie Loof, a ris­ing star in Swedish pol­i­tics, was anx­ious for power but baulked at the idea of SD sup­port. How­ever, she also in­sisted she would rather eat her shoes than en­ter govern­ment led by Mr Lofven of the Swedish So­cial Democrats.

Po­lit­i­cal net­tle

Facing fresh elec­tions – and a fur­ther surge in sup­port likely for the SD – the Lib­er­als and Cen­tre party grabbed a po­lit­i­cal net­tle to back Mr Lofven’s coali­tion from the op­po­si­tion benches.

“We have cho­sen to take re­spon­si­bil­ity, we have cho­sen to move for­ward and find a way when oth­ers re­fused to take re­spon­si­bil­ity,” said Ms Loof yes­ter­day, in­sist­ing Mr Lofven had not scored a “free ticket” back to power.

In­stead of “pas­sive sup­port”, the Cen­tre and Lib­er­als said they would de­mand in­flu­ence, in­put and close co-or­di­na­tion of govern­ment pol­icy with them.

Mod­er­ate leader Ulf Kris­ters­son, who spent the au­tumn in­sist­ing he was Swe­den’s next prime min­is­ter, crit­i­cised the ar­range­ment as “a re­ally bad de­ci­sion” that had ef­fec­tively ended the coun­try’s cen­tre-right Al­liance.

Mean­while SD leader Jim­mie Akesson promised “pow­er­ful and ac­tive op­po­si­tion” to en­sure his party could rule with the Mod­er­ates after the next elec­tion.

‘‘ Swe­den gets a work­ing govern­ment, fol­low­ing four months of limbo

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