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Row on right over confidence vote

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12:58 CET+01:00
A row has broken out between Sweden's opposition parties over a proposal from the Centre Party to try and force a vote of no confidence against Laila Freivalds, Sweden's foreign minister.

The confidence vote suggestion is the result of damning criticism of Freivalds in last week's report on the government's handling of the tsunami disaster in South Asia.

Göran Hägglund, leader of the Christian Democrat Party, which is allied with the Centre, said he was puzzled by the latest proposal.

“I don't know what's happened to the Centre Party,” he said.

“There seems to have been a breakdown in its leadership. The party appears to have assumed every position imagninable, and I can't think why.”

“It looks like they are focused on tactics in a way which is unworthy of this serious question.”

Hägglund said that the agreement reached between the four centre-right opposition parties on their approach to the government following the tsunami report left no room for interpretation.

Moderate Party leader Fredrik Reinfeldt said he was surprised and annoyed by the Centre Party's tactics.

“My judgment is that Laila Freivalds' days as foreign minister are numbered. The only thing that can stand in the way of this is this kind of tactical game playing.”

“I am annoyed that the Centre Party has, within the space of a couple of days, departed from an agreement between the members of the Alliance.”

Any vote of no confidence must result in someone losing their job, said Reinfeldt, arguing that the Centre Party was indulging in gesture politics that could lead to Freivalds surviving a confidence vote.

The four parties of the centre-right opposition had agreed to wait for a report by the parliamentary consitution committee, due to be published next spring, before deciding whether to launch a vote of no confidence in Göran Persson and the government.

The parties also agreed to take soundings with deputies from the Left and Green parties to see whether there is a majority in favour of dumping Freivalds.

“These soundings have hardly begun, and are certainly not concluded,” said Reinfeldt.

Deputies from the Liberal Party (Folkpartiet) were due to hold a meeting on Thursday morning, at which they were rumoured to be due to discuss the Centre Party's actions in the confidence vote question. The party's press secretary Niki Westerberg refused to say why the meeting was taking place.

The Centre Party wants a vote of no confidence in Freivalds before Christmas, said its party secretary Jöran Hägglund. Many Centre Party deputies were disappointed with the decision by the Alliance to take soundings to see whether a majority for a no confidence vote could be acheived before Christmas. Centre MPs want a timetable for action, he said.

“There is an impatience in the group, and a desire to move faster.”

Deputies from the Centre met on Wednesday to discuss their position. The party only has 22 members of parliament; for a confidence vote to be called requires the support of at least 35 deputies. Centre Party leaders are now attempting to persuade members from other parties to join them.

Hägglund says he thinks it will be possible for the Centre to bring the other parties on board, and the party leaders are in regular contact.

Åsa Torstensson, parliamentary leader of the Centre Party, argues that it is important to have a vote of no confidence to clarify how much support Freivalds has in parliament, even if it is eventually voted down.

“If the Greens are faced [with a confidence vote], each and every one of them will have to judge whether they want to actively support Laila Freivalds, and then they'll have to stand up for it,” she said.

Opposition group leaders were due on Thursday to discuss the possibilities of calling a confidence vote, which would force the government's coalition partners to nail their colours to the mast. Abstentions from these parties would show that support for the government had weakened.

“We have the chance to win a very strong moral victory, in which Laila Freivalds does not have the active confidence of parliament,” says Torstensson.

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