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Sweden’s Centre Party leader abandons bid to break political deadlock

UPDATED: The leader of Sweden's Centre Party, Annie Lööf, on Thursday announced she was abandoning her bid to try to break Sweden's political deadlock after a week of cross-party talks.

Sweden's Centre Party leader abandons bid to break political deadlock
Annie Lööf on her way in to meet the media. Photo: Jessica Gow / TT

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?

Lööf was last week given the role of sonderingsperson, tasked with carrying out cross-bloc talks aimed at finding a solution to the deadlock that has lasted over two months since the September election. Over the past week, she has met several times with the Social Democrats and the Green Party, who together form a centre-left bloc and have led Sweden in a minority government for the past four years. 

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.

FOR MEMBERS: Who's running the country? Your questions about the Swedish election

 

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2022 SWEDISH ELECTION

Centre Party ‘ready to join Social Democrat-led government’

Sweden's Centre Party would consider minister roles in a Social Democrat-led government, the party's leader, Annie Lööf, said on Monday, firmly positioning her party in the left bloc.

Centre Party 'ready to join Social Democrat-led government'

In an interview with newspaper Dagens Nyheter (DN), Lööf said that Social Democrat leader Magdalena Andersson was her clear choice as prime ministerial candidate in the election. 

“I believe Magdalena Andersson has the leadership needed,” she said, citing the current prime minister’s “noticeably better openness for cooperation,” than her rival, Moderate Party leader Ulf Kristersson. 

Lööf underlined the fact that her support was conditional on “policy anchored in the centre”, and that her party would not support a government that included the Left Party, and would not engage in “organised budget cooperation” with the Left Party. 

When DN asked if this also meant the Centre would be open to governmental positions, Lööf said that the party “would like to be in government with the Social Democrats,” but that this was “presuming policy leans towards the centre”.

Lööf’s decision to set out her position was welcomed by Andersson, who said that “Sweden and Swedish politics needs fewer locked positions and not more”. 

But it was met with criticism from both inside her party, from the opposition, and from the Left Party. 

“We are putting ourselves forward in this election as an independent liberal party and should support which alternative can carry out the most Centre Party politics,” the party’s youth wing wrote on Twitter. “A centre-right liberal party should always hold the door open for several government alternatives.” 

Nooshi Dadgostar, leader of the Left Party, said the decision was “strange”. 

“She seems to be asking for our support to sit in a government without being willing to cooperate with us,” she said. “In that way, it’s strange. the Social Democrats and the Centre Party do not have a majority on their own.” 

In the interview, Lööf was highly critical of the direction the Moderate Party, with whom the Centre Party ruled for eight years, had taken. 

 

“Unfortunately, we see that the Moderates, Christian Democrats and the Liberal Party have all drifted to the right and deepened their cooperation with the Sweden Democrats,” she said. “This is extremely unfortunate. It is the first time since the arrival of democracy that the right-wing parties are working together with a xenophobic party and standing for election together.” 

However, even though she said Kristersson would have to cut his party’s ties to the Sweden Democrat for her to support him as a prime ministerial candidate, she said she did not rule out working together with her previous allies on the other side of the political divide.

“We are open to continued collaboration over bloc boundaries,” she said. “But that’s conditional on the future prime minister being receptive to where the political majority is located.”

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