Stefan Lofven voted in for second term as Sweden PM

Months of political deadlock end as Social Democrat leader heads minority government

Social Democrat leader Stefan Lofven (right) after being voted back in as prime minister in Stockholm on Friday. Photograph: Jessica Gow / TT via AP

Social Democrat leader Stefan Lofven (right) after being voted back in as prime minister in Stockholm on Friday. Photograph: Jessica Gow / TT via AP

 

Sweden’s parliament has voted to give the Social Democrat leader, Stefan Lofven, a second term in office at the head of a new centre-left minority government, ending more than four months of deadlock following an inconclusive election.

The caretaker prime minister will take office on Monday, governing in a coalition with the Green party and with the parliamentary backing of the Centre and Liberal parties, formerly members of the four-party centre-right opposition Alliance.

The September 9th election produced a hung parliament, with the centre-right and centre-left blocs that have dominated Swedish politics for decades each securing about 40 per cent of the vote and separated by a single seat, heralding months of complex coalition talks.

Neither bloc was easily able to form a new government without in some way involving the third-biggest party, the far-right, anti-immigration Sweden Democrats, with whom all other parties have refused to co-operate at national level.

“More and more governments are becoming reliant on parties with an anti-democratic agenda,” Mr Lofven said after winning the vote in parliament. “But in Sweden we stand up for democracy, for equality. Sweden has chosen a different path.”

Both he and the centre-right leader, Ulf Kristersson, had tried unsuccessfully since the vote to forge potential ruling alliances in parliament. Only two more attempts were allowed before a snap election was due on January 23rd.

Second attempt

Mr Lofven’s second attempt, approved by 153 votes to 115 with 77 abstentions, succeeded in peeling the Centre and Liberal parties away from their centre-right bloc by offering major concessions, promising notably to cut taxes, reform the rental housing market and relax Sweden’s strict employment laws.

While that allowed the former trade union leader to finally form a government, it will be one of Sweden’s weakest in living memory. Just 33 per cent of voters cast their ballots for the two coalition parties, and with the Centre and Liberal parties the new administration holds 167 seats, eight short of a majority in the 349-seat Riksdag.

If the former Communists of the Left party, who like the Centre and the Liberal parties abstained in Thursday’s vote, decide the government is swinging too far to the right and vote against it, the opposition – the Sweden Democrats plus the two remaining centre-right parties, the Moderates and Christian Democrats – would have a majority.

According to Swedish law, prime ministers can govern as long as a majority of MPOs in parliament do not vote against them.

“The constellation that has chosen this prime minister is only united by one thing, a democratically dubious desire to exclude other parties from influence – not to let their votes count,” said Kristersson, the Moderate party leader.

Sweden Democrats leader Jimmie Akesson, who had hoped for more from the elections after his party won a record 17.5 per cent of the vote, described the outcome of the talks as absurd. “My ambition now is that the Sweden Democrats will be a dominating forced in a new, strong centre-right opposition,” he said. – Guardian