Sweden’s Löfven edges toward second term after deal with centre-right

Stefan Loefven, Prime Minister of Sweden speaks during the opening session of the Global Deal and Trade, Making Globalisation Work for Everyone, at the headquarters of the World Trade Organization (WTO) in Geneva, Switzerland, 22 November 2017. [EPA-EFE/MARTIAL TREZZINI]

Social Democrat leader Stefan Löfven took a big step toward a second term as Sweden’s prime minister on Friday (11 January) after agreeing a deal with two opposition parties that will move policy sharply to the right with tax cuts and business-friendly reforms.

Swedish politics has been deadlocked since a September election resulted in a hung parliament.

Finding a new government has been complicated by a promise from all parties not to work with the anti-immigration Sweden Democrats, which has roots in the white-supremacist fringe and holds the balance of power.

“This is not the solution we would ideally have liked, but it is the best that is possible in an extremely difficult situation,” Annie Lööf, leader of the centre-right Centre party, told reporters.

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She said the agreement – also tentatively endorsed by the centre-right Liberals and the Social Democrats’ partner the Green Party – would exclude the Sweden Democrats and the Left Party from having influence on policy-making.

Lööf said the Social Democrats had agreed to cut income taxes, to abandon a proposal to limit the profits of private firms operating in the tax-funded welfare sector and to increase environmental taxes, among other policies.

The accord must still be approved by the executive bodies of all four parties involved in order to take effect.

“We Social Democrats believe that an agreement between our parties would safeguard democracy and move Sweden forward by carrying out necessary reforms,” Löfven said in a statement.

Parliament will vote on January 16 for a new prime minister.

Sweden faces political impasse after far-right election gains

Sweden faces a political impasse after its mainstream centre-left and centre-right blocs virtually tied in an election on Sunday (9 September), while the far-right – which neither wants to deal with – made gains on a hardline anti-immigration platform.

Opposition

The four parties together would still control fewer than half of the seats in parliament, so would require the support of the Social Democrats’ allies in the Left Party.

But the Left is not expected to block a new Löfven-led government because it does not want a right-wing one backed by the Sweden Democrats.

Some Liberal and Centre lawmakers expressed strong opposition to Friday’s deal, which will probably mark the death of the four-party centre-right Alliance, formed in 2004 to end the Social Democrats’ century-long domination of Swedish politics.

“This is a real betrayal of all the voters who voted for an Alliance party in order to get a new government and a new direction in Swedish politics,” Moderate Party leader Ulf Kristersson, the Alliance’s candidate for prime minister, told reporters.

“If today’s decision is carried out, they are breaking up the Alliance at a national level.”

Swedish lawmakers reject centre-right Kristersson's attempt to form government

Swedish lawmakers rejected on Wednesday (14 November) the centre-right Moderate Party leader’s attempt to form a minority government with the Christian Democrats, prolonging the political deadlock in place since the election in September. EURACTIV’s partner efe-epa reports.

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