Right-wing parties begin negotiations to design Sweden’s future government | International

Sweden enters unknown territory. The country that for decades was at the forefront of the Welfare State, and where individual liberties and the rights of minorities were defended by the entire parliamentary arch, begins a new stage with Sweden Democrats (DS) —a populist formation, anti-immigration and openly opposed to the presence of Muslims in Europe— in a situation of unprecedented power. The parliamentary elections last Sunday have given that party 20% of the vote, behind the Social Democratic Party, which was in first position with almost a third of the ballots. But the surprising resignation -formalized this Thursday- of the prime minister, the social democrat Magdalena Andersson, leaves the weight of the government formation in the right-wing bloc, which has more seats than the progressive formations. Negotiations to constitute that future Executive have begun after the end of the ballot granted victory this Wednesday to the right (conservatives, Christian Democrats, liberals and extreme right).

Andreas Norlén, the president of Parliament, is expected to commission Ulf Kristersson, the leader of the Moderate Party (conservatives), next week to form a government. “I am now starting to work to form a new and effective government,” Kristersson said in a video posted on Facebook and Instagram late Wednesday. “The moderates, and the other parties on our side, have been given the mandate to transform Sweden,” added Kristersson, 55. The objective of the conservative, who was Minister of Social Security between 2010 and 2014, is to form a coalition Executive with the Christian Democrats and, if necessary, with the Liberals.

It won’t be easy. Kristersson, a former gymnast, will have to do tricks to meet the demands of the Sweden Democrats. The Moderate Party had been in second position, always behind the Social Democrats, in all parliamentary elections since 1976. In last Sunday’s elections they were surpassed by the extreme right. The usual thing in the Scandinavian country is that the leader of the most voted force of the winning bloc is invested as prime minister, but on this occasion it does not seem feasible to make Jimmie Akesson, the leader of DS for 17 years, head of government.

The newspaper Aftonbladet He assures that representatives of the four parties have already sat down at the same table to negotiate, although at the moment the leaders are not participating. “The first issues that are being discussed are the energy crisis, especially in relation to nuclear power plants, and the inflationary spiral, issues on which it seems easy to reach agreements,” according to an anonymous source quoted by the newspaper.

Last weekend’s elections were the first in which the traditional right (moderate and Christian Democrats) and the liberals were willing to cooperate with the extreme right to oust the Social Democrats from the government. After DS entered Parliament for the first time, in 2010, the ultras were relegated to ostracism for almost a decade. It was precisely Kristersson who in 2019, faced with the unstoppable rise of the extreme right, began to cut the cordon sanitaire, defining DS as a “serious political force with constructive ideas.”

Last November, conservatives, Christian Democrats and extremists approved alternative Budgets to those presented by the Social Democratic Government. Kristersson and Ebba Busch, the leader of the Christian Democrats, have defended for months that it was necessary to have the parliamentary backing of the extreme right in order to govern, but they have tried to avoid at all costs ruling on the possibility of offering him ministerial portfolios.

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DS leaders are aware that Akesson’s chances of becoming prime minister are slim to none. Demanding the head of government could blow up the right-wing bloc and place the Social Democratic Party, the most voted party, with almost a third of the votes, in the parliamentary elections on Sunday and in all those that have been celebrated in the Scandinavian country since the introduction of universal suffrage.

The options for the four parties of the winning bloc to reach an agreement, and the time it will take to do so, will depend above all on the demands of the extreme right. When in the spring the polls placed DS in third position, its leader showed interest in the portfolio of Justice. In the early hours of last Monday, when the votes already pointed to a victory for the group of parties on the right and the sorpasso of the ultras on the conservatives, Akesson, 43, claimed “a central role” in the future government. Lynus Bilund, chief of staff of DS, lowered the tone of the demands on Tuesday by declaring that the entry of his formation in the Executive is a “starting point for negotiations”, not an “ultimatum”. Most Swedish political analysts consider it likely that the extreme right will finally decide to stay on the sidelines and press from its 73 seats so that many of its proposals are executed by the rest of the right-wing bloc.

The Liberals are in a very delicate situation. Political scientist Anders Sannerstedt told the newspaper on Tuesday Dagens Nyheter that the party led by Johan Pehrson has been mired in “an internal war” for years due to its relationship with the extreme right, and that this “will worsen in the coming days.” Several senior members of the formation have stated these days that their intention is to form part of a coalition government with moderates and Christian Democrats. Romina Pourmokhtari, one of the 16 Liberals who has won a seat, assured on Wednesday that under no circumstances will an Executive that includes members of the far-right formation support. Both Liberals and Conservatives and Christian Democrats have won fewer seats in these elections than in 2018.

The four parties of the right-wing block finally add 176 deputies, compared to 173 of the group of left-wing parties (social democrats, ex-communists, environmentalists and centrists). To be sworn in as prime minister, it is not necessary to have an absolute majority of votes in favor, but it is necessary that 175 are not added against, so that a mere abstention of the extreme right (which adds up to 73 seats) would allow the rest of the forces of its bloc invest Kristersson.

Magdalena Andersson, the first woman to rule Sweden, presented his resignation to Norlén on Thursday -announced on Wednesday-, less than 10 months after taking office. “I have communicated [al presidente del Parlamento] that if the conservatives change their minds and want to collaborate with me instead of with the DS, my door is open”, he pointed out at a press conference. The sum of seats for Social Democrats and moderates reaches exactly 175, so a coalition government between the two would not require the support of any other formation.

Despite the fact that the Social Democratic Party has improved its electoral results compared to four years ago, the loss of seats by centrists and leftists have reduced their chances of continuing to govern. Annie Lööf, the leader of the Center Party, has submitted her resignation this Thursday.

After the 2018 elections, Sweden entered a political paralysis that lasted for more than four months. It was the cordon sanitaire to the extreme right that allowed the Social Democrat Stefan Löfven to finally be sworn in as Prime Minister, who formed a coalition government with the Greens. Negotiations are expected to drag on for weeks this time as well.

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