Sweden Closer to Snap Election as Lofven Drops Bid to Form Government

October 29, 2018 Updated: October 29, 2018

STOCKHOLM—Swedish Social Democrat leader Stefan Lofven has abandoned an attempt to form a government, extending a political deadlock almost two months after an inconclusive election and bringing the prospect of a snap vote nearer.

A caretaker administration under Lofven has run Sweden since voters delivered a hung parliament on Sept. 9, which tilted the balance of power to the anti-immigration Sweden Democrats. Neither Lofven’s center-left bloc nor the center-right group of parties has been willing to give the Sweden Democrats a say in policy due to its right-wing roots.

“In light of the responses I have had so far … the possibility doesn’t exist for me to build a government that can be accepted by parliament,” Lofven told reporters on Oct. 29.

The leader of the center-right opposition Alliance bloc, Ulf Kristersson, already has tried and failed to form a government.

Sweden’s economy is strong but any new government must attempt housing and labor market reforms, and try to develop a sustainable migration policy. The delay in forming a government could undermine faith in mainstream parties. The leader of the Sweden Democrats, Jimmie Akesson, said a new vote could boost support for his party.

Both Lofven and Kristersson said they still hope to be prime minister, but neither offered a way to end the stalemate.

“I do not see any indication that anyone has changed their minds about anything at all,” Kristersson told reporters after meeting with the speaker of parliament.

The Centre and Liberal parties of the Alliance blocked Kristersson as prime minister, saying a center-right government, with or without them, would need the support of the Sweden Democrats.

The two parties also have rejected advances from Lofven and called on him to back a broad government across the political divide led by Kristersson. So far, Lofven has refused.

Some analysts believe the speaker will now turn to Annie Loof, the leader of the Centre Party, which has 31 seats in the 349-member parliament. Loof said she wanted Kristersson as prime minister, but she has told the speaker she could help break the deadlock.

Liberal leader Jan Bjorklund said she should try to pull together an Alliance government supported by the Green Party, part of Lofven’s outgoing coalition.

The speaker could also ask Kristersson to have another go, though his chances of success look bleak.

Akesson said his party would vote down any government that doesn’t give the party influence on policy.

“Sweden is heading for a new election, if no one is willing to try something that isn’t their first choice,” Kristersson said.

Although united in their determination to isolate the Sweden Democrats, the Centre and Liberal parties champion economic policies that put them considerably to the right of Lofven’s Social Democrats, who have ruled over the past four years with the backing of the former Communist Left Party.

Sweden Democrats leader Jimmie Akesson has previously said, “It feels completely unreasonable that we would allow a government that clearly declares that we won’t get any influence whatsoever. That will, of course, not happen.”

By Simon Johnson & Johan Sennero