Swedish PM Lövfen to step down after losing confidence vote

Attempts now begin to find new prime minister who can command parliamentary majority

Swedish prime minister Stefan Lofven is to step down after he lost a mandatory confidence vote in parliament. Photograph:  Jonas Ekstromer/EPA

Swedish prime minister Stefan Lofven is to step down after he lost a mandatory confidence vote in parliament. Photograph: Jonas Ekstromer/EPA

 

Sweden moved a step closer to a new centre-right government after acting Social Democrat prime minister Stefan Lövfen was defeated in a confidence vote.

Two weeks after an inconclusive election left the country’s two main blocs just one seat apart, the votes of the far-right Sweden Democrats (SD) ensured Mr Lövfen’s defeat.

Some 204 of Sweden’s 349 members of parliament voted against him, 142 voted in favour and three MPs were absent with no abstentions.

Mr Lövfen will stay on as caretaker prime minister after Tuesday’s Riksdag vote as the parliamentary speaker begins the task of finding a new prime minister acceptable to deputies.

After the vote Mr Lövfen said he was ready to stay on if asked, and to put together a new government that extends across traditional left-right divide.

“I want to lead a government that enjoys broad support in Sweden’s parliament, so that we can leave bloc politics behind and take the country forward,” he said.

For now, though, the most likely candidate as next prime minister is Ulf Kristersson, leader of the conservative-liberal Moderates.

“Today, after the election, we’re doing what we promised before the election,” said Mr Kristersson “It is obvious that Sweden needs a new government.”

The Moderates are the largest party in the centre-right alliance but, like the outgoing Social Democrat-lead government, they lack a parliamentary majority.

That hands huge power in talks to the populist SD, the third-largest group in parliament, which has signalled it is open to a co-operation with the centre-right bloc. While some Moderates have signalled openness to such an approach, some of Mr Kristersson’s smaller political allies refuse to entertain even an informal co-operation.

In an indication of complicated talks ahead, all other parties voted against the SD candidate for deputy parliamentary speaker on Monday – a role that would normally go to the third-largest party.

Tuesday’s vote started the countdown for Sweden’s politicians. The parliamentary speaker has four attempts to find a new prime minister with a parliamentary majority – or one without an opposing majority.

If all four attempts fail, fresh elections must be held within three months – something that has never happened in Swedish history. All mainstream parties are anxious to avoid such an outcome, fearing another election would see an extra surge for the far-right.