Liberals offer conditional support for Löfven as Swedish PM

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Liberals offer conditional support for Löfven as Swedish PM
Stefan Löfven may have to swing his party to the right if he wants to return to the PM's office. Photo: Jessica Gow/TT

A split Liberal Party has expressed a willingness to see Stefan Löfven return to the prime minister’s post, but only if the Social Democrat leader commits to a rightward shift.


The Liberals’ leader Jan Björklund announced on Wednesday that his party is willing to abstain from participating in the December 5th vote on Löfven’s nomination to the PM. 
Sweden’s system of negative parliamentarism means that a prime ministerial candidate does not need to have the support of a majority but only need to show that they do not have a majority of parliament against them. In other words, the formation of a new government can be "tolerated" by abstentions, sometimes called "passive support".
The Liberals’ offer of passive support for Löfven comes just one day after a similar statement from the Centre Party. Both parties are part of the centre-right Alliance and both have made it clear that they would only clear the way for Löfven if he makes a number of concessions to move his party’s policies more to the centre-right of the political spectrum. 
“There are going to have to be some serious considerations made by the Social Democrats and they will probably be painful,” Björklund said on Wednesday. 
At the top of Björklund’s list of demands is an eventual scrapping of the highest marginal tax rate (värnskatt). Other items on his list include a liberalization of the rental market and lower salaries for entry-level nonskilled jobs. The demands are seen as being in line with those conveyed by Centre Party leader Annie Lööf on Tuesday. 
Björklund does not have the full support of his party, however. The decision to not block Löfven faced internal pushback and only won by a 13-6 vote among Liberal MPs. 
“I think we should have voted ’no’, but we have different views within the party. I think it would be better for Sweden if Ulf Kristersson were to be prime minister and that it will be disastrous for our party to cooperate with the Social Democrats,” the Liberals’ economic spokesman, Mats Persson, said. 
Parliament has already voted down Kristersson as prime minister. The Liberals and the Centre Party refused to back the Moderate leader because a government formed under his leadership would rely on support from the populist and anti-immigration Sweden Democrats. 
Löfven said he welcomed the opening provided by the Liberals.
“I think it’s good that there is a willingness to enter into discussions on potential cooperation. The Social Democrats and I are ready to hold confidential conversations in which all parties will have to give and take,” he said in a written statement provided to Aftonbladet. “It’s positive that several parties are prepared to take responsibility so that Sweden can have an effective government.”
Both the Liberals and the Centre Party have said that they are not interested in formally joining a Social Democrat-led government coalition. 
Sweden has been trying to form a government since the September 9th parliamentary elections. There is no set deadline by which this must be completed but the number of prime ministerial votes that can be held before a snap election is automatically called is capped at four.
The December 5th vote on Löfven will be the second chance after parliament voted down Kristersson earlier this month by a parliamentary majority of 195 no votes to 154 yes votes. 
While the process drags on, Löfven continues to lead a caretaker government tasked with the day-to-day responsibilities of government but not meant to make any partisan decisions.


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