Mon, 22 Jul 2019

Swedish PM forced to resign after losing parliament support

By Sheetal Sukhija, Jamaica News
26 Sep 2018, 12 GMT+10

STOCKHOLM, Sweden - Weeks after the country's general election delivered a hung parliament, MPs voted in a mandatory no-confidence vote on Tuesday, ousting the Swedish Prime Minister Stefan Lofven.

The country's centre-left prime minister will now be forced to step down after he lost parliament's support in the no-confidence vote, which saw 204 MPs opposing him and 142 voting in his favour. 

Lofven, who heads the country's largest party - the Social Democratic Party, has been in power since 2014.

With neither of Sweden's biggest political blocs winning a decisive majority, Lofven is now set to continue as a caretaker prime minister until a new government can be formed, after which he will stand down. 

After the vote on Tuesday, Lofven said, "I wanted to continue to lead the country as prime minister. I want to lead a government that has broader support in the country's parliament and that allows us to leave a stalemate of bloc politics."

Political deadlock

Following the September 9 general election, the incumbent Social Democrat-Green coalition lost its majority, winning just 144 seats.

Meanwhile, the centre-right Alliance coalition, which is made up of the Moderates, the Centre Party, the Christian Democrats and the Liberals - won 143 seats. 

The Sweden Democrats, which is a right-wing anti-immigration party, managed to achieve its highest ever score, winning 17.6 percent of the vote. 

With no majority in the 349-seat parliament, the centre-right parties and the far-right Sweden Democrats backed a vote to remove Lofven, which eventually led to his ouster on Tuesday. 

However, the vote has plunged the country into political uncertainty that experts warn could last weeks until the Swedish legislature, the Riksdagen can decide on a new government. 

Following Tuesday's decision, Sweden's Parliament Speaker Andreas Norlen, will now have to propose a new leader with the majority required to form a new government. 

Norlen, a centre-right Moderate party politician, who was elected as the Speaker earlier this week, will have four attempts to put together a new government.

However, if he fails to break the deadlock, Sweden will face another general election within three months.

Norlen is reportedly planning to meet the leaders of the eight parties over the next few days in a bid to determine who is best placed to form Sweden's next government.

'No to racism'

The significant support received by the right-wing Sweden Democrats in the elections earlier this month led to fears of the rise in far-right populism across Europe.

The nationalist, anti-immigration party entered parliament in 2010 and since then, it has been linked to neo-Nazis and other far-right groups.

Even though the party has been keen to change its image, it has faced several scandals and in recent years, many party members have been expelled over racist behaviour and links to right-wing groups.

Yet, it has become the third largest party in the country and managed to score 17.6 percent of the vote - compared to the 13 percent it won four years back.

The party is demanding a halt in immigration and has campaigned for a new vote on membership of the European Union.

On Tuesday, Lofven said in a statement that he intended to work to form another government across the political divide, adding that he was "available for talks" with other parties.

While he mentioned that he was optimistic that he might be able to form a government, he categorically ruled out a coalition with the anti-immigration Sweden Democrats.

He said, "Time after time, their connections to racist and Nazi organizations have been exposed."

He also pointed out that he did not believe that fresh elections were something voters wanted.

Analysts now believe that Ulf Kristersson, leader of the biggest party of the four-party centre-right Alliance - the Moderates is set to be named by Norlen. 

However, even though the Sweden Democrats are more likely to back a Moderate candidate, Lofven has warned that he would never support a government that relied on the right-wing party.

He even warned the centre-right bloc against relying on the support of a party "founded by Nazis."

Yet, if named, Kristersson will need support from the Sweden Democrats or the Social Democrats.

Further, the Alliance too has clarified that it will not negotiate with the Sweden Democrats.

Meanwhile, leader of the Sweden Democrat party, Jimmie Akesson said in a statement that his party would only support a government that would give them a say in policy.

He stressed, "We will do everything in our power to stop any attempt to form a government, do everything to bring down every government, which does not give us a reasonable influence in proportion to our electoral support."

Akesson declared, "If Ulf Kristersson wants to be prime minister, it can only happen with my help."

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