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Abu Dhabi, UAESaturday 23 February 2019

Sweden lurches from political mess to almost having a government

Social Democrats are confident they will be able to build a coalition to rule the Scandinavian country

More than four months after an inconclusive election, Swedes started this week thinking they were within sniffing distance of having a government
More than four months after an inconclusive election, Swedes started this week thinking they were within sniffing distance of having a government

After suffering an embarrassing blow from the left, Sweden’s Social Democrats may yet be able to form a government this week.

Stefan Lofven, who leads the party, has until Wednesday afternoon to prove that he finally has the backing he needs to build a ruling coalition. All he has to do is to salvage a deal he made with two centrist parties, without alienating a former ally on the left. If he succeeds, he’s set to become prime minister after a vote in parliament on Friday.

More than four months after an inconclusive election, Swedes started this week thinking they were within sniffing distance of having a government. But on Monday, the Left Party suddenly rejected Mr Lofven’s deal, which would have deprived them of any political influence.

“We’re not doormats that you buy at Ikea,” said Hakan Svenneling, a member of parliament for the Left party.

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The view among analysts and former top politicians is that Mr Lofven will succeed. If he does, it means Sweden’s political map will be redrawn, with traditional blocs broken up. It will also leave the country with a fragile coalition operating inside a political landscape in which nationalism has gained ground and establishment parties have suffered a body blow.

For Mr Lofven, who’s already served as prime minister for a four-year term starting in 2014, the road to success will lie in reconciling the agenda of a party that once identified itself as communist with that of parties favouring tax cuts and deregulation. Mr Lofven’s Social Democrats will also need to make some hefty concessions.

Mr Svenneling of the Left Party says the time Mr Lofven has to strike a deal may not be enough.

“I think the timetable is too tight and optimistic,” he said.

But in Mr Lofven’s Social Democrat party, people are more optimistic. Tomas Bodstrom, a former justice minister, says he’s “pretty sure” the whole process has been orchestrated and that a deal will ultimately be struck. “It’s part of the game,” he said.

Daniel Suhonen, who used to be a speechwriter for former Social Democratic Leader Hakan Juholt and who heads the leftist think tank Katalys, used almost the same words.

“I think they will solve their dispute,” he said. “This is all an act.”

Updated: January 16, 2019 03:53 AM

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