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Abu Dhabi, UAETuesday 16 October 2018

Swedish PM ousted in confidence vote, deepening political uncertainty

The far-right, anti-immigrant party sealed the fate of the Social Democrats

Swedish Prime Minister Stefan Lofven, right, attends parliament during a vote of confidence in the Swedish Parliament Riksdagen. AP
Swedish Prime Minister Stefan Lofven, right, attends parliament during a vote of confidence in the Swedish Parliament Riksdagen. AP

Swedish Prime Minister Stefan Löfven was ousted in a confidence vote on Tuesday adding uncertainty over who will govern the country following a national election that resulted in a hung parliament.

The vote saw 204 MPs siding against Mr Löfven and 142 in his favour. He remained optimistic he could form a governing coalition but stopped short of saying with whom. "I am available for talks," Mr Löfven said after the vote.

His party, the Social Democrats, has come first in every election since 1917 but the September 9 election saw its worse performance in a century. Its 144 seats fell short of the 175 needed for a majority, and represented only one more seat than the centre-right Alliance bloc.

The far-right, anti-immigrant party Sweden Democrats sealed the fate of the Social Democrats by siding with the centre-right Alliance and voting to remove Mr Löfven in Tuesday’s confidence vote.

They had gained ground since the previous elections in 2014 with 62 seats, but remain isolated as no party wants to enter a coalition with the neo-Nazi movement.

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“Our previous position that we do not have confidence in him remains,” Sweden Democrat lawmaker Mattias Karlsson said before the vote.

The Sweden Democrats have promised to vote down any government that does not give them influence over policy, particularly on immigration.

Ulf Kristersson, the leader of the second largest party, the Moderates, previously rejected a proposal to form a coalition that straddled the ideological divide with Mr Löfven as leader.

As a prime ministerial rival to Mr Löfven, he was likely to vote against Social Democrat leader, whom he had invited to step down as the elections results were still trickling in.

“I think that the Alliance has the best potential to form a government, that has not changed,” Mr Kristersson said. “But there are many obstacles in the way and there are a number of steps before we get there.”

Mr Löfven will now lead a caretaker government until a governing coalition is formed.

Given the complex balance of power that emerged from the vote, this could take months or even lead to elections that by law can be scheduled from December 24 onwards.

The Swedish results followed a pan-European trend that has seen traditional parties weakened by the rise of the far-right, but a collaboration between the centre-right bloc and the Sweden Democrats still looks unlikely.

To avoid relying on the far-right party, which campaigned on stopping immigration and holding a referendum to quit the EU, the Alliance wants to lead a coalition with the Social Democrats, a proposal Mr Löfven has already rejected.