Coalition compromise ends Sweden’s post-election deadlock


The Irish Times | Published: January 11, 2019


Centre-left Social Democrats hit confidence-and-supply deal with centre-right parties

Sweden’s prime minister Stefan Löfven is set to serve another term. Photograph Francois Lenoir/Reuters


By Derek Scally in Berlin


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 Löfven 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 Löfven 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 Löfven. 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.

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 Löfven 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 Lööf, a rising star in Swedish politics, was anxious for power but balked at the idea of SD support. However, she also insisted she would rather eat her shoes than enter government led by Mr Löfven of the Swedish Social Democrats.

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 Löfven’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 Lööf at a press conference on Friday, insisting Mr Löfven 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 Åkesson promised “powerful and active opposition” to ensure his party could rule with the Moderates after the next election.

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