Sweden’s prime minister resigns, but warns of early elections

Sweden’s center-left government resigned on Monday, but Prime Minister Stefan Lofven refused to call a snap election, saying he would try to form a new coalition to break a parliamentary deadlock caused by the rise of a nationalist party.

“With one year to go until regular elections, and in terms of the exceptional situation that the country finds itself in the ongoing pandemic with the special challenges it may entail, early elections are not the best for Sweden,” Lofven told a news conference. on Monday.

He said the decision to resign was the “hardest” he had ever faced.

The prime minister’s resignation means that the head of the Swedish parliament now has four attempts to try and find a new government. Sweden’s traditional left-right politics has been shaken by the emergence of the nationalist Swedish Democrats, who first entered parliament in 2010 and are now the third largest party.

Political experts say it is far from certain that a new government can be formed. Löfven took four months in 2018 to form a minority coalition between his Social Democrats and the Green Party, which was supported in parliament by two centre-right parties, the Center and the Liberals, as well as the former Communist Left Party.

The current political crisis was triggered by the Left Party’s alliance with the Swedish Democrats and other opposition groups, which led to the first successful vote of no confidence in an incumbent Swedish prime minister.

The Center Party said it was ready to negotiate with Löfven but not with the Left or the Swedish Democrats. The center ceded its demand to reform rent controls, which led to the left voting against the government.

But the main centre-right opposition party, the Moderates, may struggle to form its own coalition, and even with the support of the Swedish Democrats and the Liberals, it is unlikely to get a majority.

“Now the Speaker of Parliament has to look for alternative options, but there is no clear way to move forward with the formation of a new government,” former centre-right Prime Minister Carl Bildt wrote on Twitter.

One possibility, which has been used before in neighboring Finland as well as Germany and Iceland, would be a grand alliance between the Social Democrats and centre-right parties.

“I wouldn’t rule it out,” Lovin told the Financial Times on Monday. If the country gets into a situation that requires it, then yes I am open. But I can’t see it now.”

He added that organizing early elections will take four months and until then there is no guarantee that it will give a clearer parliamentary picture. Given that the two possible scenarios from health authorities are an increase in Covid cases from August, Lofven said it would be better to try to form a coalition from the current parliament first rather than “hand it over” to voters

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