Sweden seeks way out of political gridlock after far-right gains

People walk past election posters near the Swedish parliament in Stockholm, Sweden September 10, 2018. TT News Agency/Soren Andersson via REUTERS


STOCKHOLM: Swedish political parties face weeks of haggling to form a government after voters delivered a hung parliament on Sunday, with the anti-immigration Sweden Democrats saying they hold the balance of power.

A preliminary allocation of parliamentary seats gave the center-left bloc – uniting the minority governing Social Democrat and Green parties with the Left Party – 144 seats versus 143 for the center-right Alliance bloc.

The Sweden Democrats, who want to leave the European Union, won 62 seats, up from 49 in the 349-seat Riksdag where 175 seats are needed to form a majority.

Doing a deal with them would give either bloc a majority but the mainstream parties have ruled out cooperating with a party which has roots in the white supremacist fringe.

Both blocs have declared themselves victors in the election, but need additional support to form a viable government without the Sweden Democrats, who want influence over immigration policy. There are a number of ways out of the tangle.

The Alliance of the Moderates, Centre, Liberals and Christian Democrats looks set to be slightly smaller than the center-left. But it will hope for backing from the Sweden Democrats to oust Prime Minister Stefan Lofven and to install Moderate leader Ulf Kristersson as his replacement.

However, a formal agreement with the Sweden Democrats would very likely see the Centre and Liberal parties, who want looser immigration policies, jump ship.

It is not clear whether the Centre and Liberal parties would take part in a government that had no formal support from the Sweden Democrats but in practice relied on their votes to install a prime minister.

On Monday, Sweden Democrats leader Jimmie Akesson invited the Moderates and Christian Democrats to formal negotiations but was quickly rebuffed.

Akesson said his party would vote against any government that did not give it a say in policy.

The Social Democrats and Greens could retain power in the unlikely event that Prime Minister Lofven survives a mandatory vote on whether to replace him.

Lofven said he would remain in office in the coming weeks and called for cooperation across the political divide.

When voting for a prime minister in parliament, a proposal is passed unless a majority of all 349 lawmakers vote against. This has allowed minority governments to rule.

The Alliance would need the Sweden Democrats to back a vote to oust Lofven and install Kristersson.