Reinfeldt dealt first Riksdag vote defeat

Reinfeldt dealt first Riksdag vote defeat
Prime Minister Fredrik Reinfeldt on Thursday suffered his first parliamentary defeat since reelection as the far-right Sweden Democrats and centre-left opposition voted in favour of major cuts to the government’s administrative budget.

The bill, which called for a 300 million kronor ($43.4 million) reduction in what the government offices can spend on operations, passed with 155 votes in favour versus 148 votes against.

“We basically didn’t lose any votes during the last session of parliament. If you go back to the minority government of [former prime minister] Göran Persson, it was a bit more common, and I think people should operate under that assumption when it comes to minority governments and that’s what I’ve told the Swedish people,” Reinfeldt told the TT news agency following the vote.

He emphasised that the government tried to work together with the Social Democrats and the Greens on several issues, including Sweden’s presence in Afghanistan, as well as the issue of the government office’s budget.

“But I think it was more important for (Social Democratic economic policy spokesperson) Thomas Östros to permanently reduce the government offices and together with (Sweden Democrat party leaders) Jimmie Åkesson send this as a Christmas greeting to the employees,” said Reinfeldt.

“The committee’s proposal of a savings of 300 million kronor from the government offices is in line with our understanding. The government must do the same with its resources the households of the citizens are doing,” said Sweden Democrat Jonas Åkerlund when he made it known that his party would support the cuts.

While the Sweden Democrats had originally wanted to reduce the government offices’ operating budget by 670 million kronor, the party decided instead to support a motion from the Riksdag’s Committee on the Constitution calling for a savings of 300 million kronor.

“The government offices are thought to be sacred ground. There should be savings everywhere except around Fredrik Reinfeldt,” said Social Democrat Peter Hultqvist ahead of the vote.

The four centre-right parties which make up Reinfeldt’s Alliance government have warned the cuts will result in staff cuts and the shuttering of embassies overseas.

However, the Social Democrats rejected the claims, asserting there was room for cutting costs.

According to the foreign ministry, foreign missions in Algiers, Brussels, Buenos Aires, Havana, Hong Kong, Khartoum, Lisbon, Luanda, Pyongyang and Rabat are all in danger of being closed in the wake of the budget cuts.

Despite losing the vote, Reinfeldt’s government isn’t in any danger, according to political scientist Henrik Oscarsson.

“He’ll survive setbacks in all sorts of votes with the possible exception of a no-confidence vote, a vote against the state budget, and perhaps a no-confidence vote against one of the heavyweight ministers,” Oscarsson told TT.

However, Oscarsson added that losing votes will make the government’s work more unwieldy.

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