Sweden centre-right holds ‘constructive’ talks on new coalition

Ulf Kristersson, whose Moderate Party finished third in Sunday’s election, is set to become prime minister

Sweden’s Ulf Kristersson, Moderates leader and prime minister presumptive, held “constructive” preliminary talks on Thursday with possible allies in a new centre-right alliance.

Though his party finished third in Sunday’s election, final results released on Thursday confirmed his centre-right alliance secured 176 seats in the Riksdag parliament, three seats more then than the Social Democrats and its traditional centre-left allies.

In a video posted to Facebook, Mr Kristersson said he was “starting work to set up a new, dynamic government”.

“The Moderates and the other parties on my side have gotten the mandate for change that we asked for,” he said. “Thank you for your support, now we will get Sweden in order ... I want to unite, not split.”


Holding together his centre-right alliance is likely to prove a tricky task in upcoming coalition talks.

Sunday’s election result was so tight that a final result was postponed until all late postal votes and foreign ballot was counted.

The final result confirmed the far-right Sweden Democrats (SD) as the big election winner with 20.5 per cent of the vote, up three points on 2018. That translates into 73 seats, 11 more than in the outgoing parliament, and sees it overtake the Moderates, on 19 per cent, as the country’s second-biggest party.

“Now the work begins to make Sweden good again,” wrote Mr Jimmie Åkesson, SD party leader, on Facebook. He said his preference is for full participation in office, with ministerial posts in the new government, but said this was not a red line if the party could drive through reforms from the opposition benches.

After overtaking the Moderates at polls, the SD is likely to take over, too, the Moderates’ parliamentary offices. And it may have the right to nominate the Riksdag president who will oversee the coalition negotiations.

Those talks are likely to be fraught given Mr Kristersson’s path to power is dependent on support from the SD, which in turn has sparked tensions among prominent politicians from the Christian Democrats and Liberals, two smaller traditional centre-right coalition partners.

Their political options have never been so limited, however, given they all lost support, and seats, in an election dominated by law-and-order issues, a traditional SD political priority.

The centre-left Social Democrats increased its support to 30.3 per cent and gained seven seats. But losses in its centre-left allies saw Social Democrat prime minister Magdalena Andersson announce her resignation on Wednesday after 10 months in the job.

Now merely a caretaker prime minister, in her concession speech she appeared to keep open a back door to talks with the Moderates for “national unity” government.

For now though, all eyes are on Ulf Kristersson. Married with three children adopted from China, the trained economist can look back on a 30-year career in politics.

Moderates leader since 2018, Mr Kristersson has had several close brushes with power in recent years during Social Democratic heaves.

Ignoring Ms Andersson’s overtures, for now at least, the 58-year-old is focused on his options for a new centre-right coalition.

Two options are minority coalitions with the Liberals and Christian Democrats, likely to focus on income and corporate tax cuts and liberalisation of the labour market.

Another, taboo-breaking option would be a formal coalition with the SD. After Sweden accepted record numbers of immigrants and asylum seekers in the last decade, SD leaders are demanding tough laws and penalties for those involved in gang crime.

The party also wants additional powers for the military to support police in their battle with open gang warfare on Sweden’s streets.

Derek Scally

Derek Scally

Derek Scally is an Irish Times journalist based in Berlin