Lööf's meeting with parliamentary speaker Andreas Norlén lasted an hour longer than expected, but she confirmed she had been unable to find support for a workable government and added that she did not see any possibility of leading a minority government herself.
“In such an unclear parliamentary situation as we have now, one side needs to tolerate the other in order to reach a solution to the question of government,” Lööf said. “There is currently no basis for this.”
“It is now up to the speaker to decide the next step,” she said, adding that there would be no sense in her asking for more time to carry out exploratory talks.
She explained that there was significant cross-party agreement on the areas of defence and schools but named labour and migration policies as topics that were difficult to find common ground on.
SWEDEN IN FOCUS: How did the political situation get to where it is today?
The September election left neither the centre-left nor the four-party centre-right Alliance — comprising the Moderates, Christian Democrats, Centre Party and Liberals — with a majority, and just one seat separates the two blocs. In the two and a half months since then, both the Social Democrats and Moderates have tried and failed to break the deadlock.
The biggest stumbling block has been the fact that two parties in the Alliance, the Moderates and Christian Democrats, have so far refused to work with the centre-left. But that would require them to rely on support from the far-right Sweden Democrats, something the Centre Party and Liberals are opposed to.
Lööf said she looked into three alternatives: the Alliance working with the Social Democrats, the Alliance working with the Green Party, and a minority centrist government made up of the Centre Party and Liberals.
There is no set deadline by which Sweden must form a government, but the number of prime ministerial votes that can be held before a snap election is automatically called is capped at four.
Three of these chances remain after Moderates leader Ulf Kristersson was not accepted by parliament, due to the Centre Party and Liberals refusing to back a government that relied on support from the far-right Sweden Democrats. This means the country is now in untested waters — previously, parliament had always accepted the first candidate to be proposed.
Lööf cancelled a planned event on Wednesday and was also absent from parliamentary debates over several proposed law changes due to the ongoing talks.
Shortly after Lööf announced her decision, the speaker issued a statement in which he said he would contact the different party leaders by telephone during the day and that he will hold a press conference on Friday.