Malmö Mayor Katrin Stjernfeldt Jammeh celebrates the deal struck with Liberal leader Roko Kursar outside Malmö's city offices. Photo: Johan Nilsson/TT
“The Liberals in Malmö have taken a historic decision,” the party's Malmö chair Roko Kursar told The Local. “With that comes a huge responsibility and very hard work, night and day, and I think that everyone that voted yesterday to accept the offer from the Social Democrats is aware of this.”
Kursar said the decision signalled the end of the centre-right Alliance bloc, at least in the city.
“The election gave us that answer: bloc politics has played its last tune,” he said.
The city's Social Democrat mayor Katrin Stjernfeldt Jammeh hailed the decision as “good for Malmö, good for stability”.
She said the two parties would hold a joint conference on Wednesday to give more details on their coalition agreement, and would then get to work on negotiating the budget.
The decision came after the Social Democrats last Sunday offered the minority party a package of government posts and policy concessions out of all proportion to the 5.59 percent of the vote the Liberals received in September.
The Liberal party is receiving four full-time deputy mayor positions: for Schools, Disability, Democracy, and Building and the Environment. It has also won the right to appoint the chair of the council's primary school, disability, leisure and environment committees.
The local Moderate leader Torbjörn Tegnhammar, who had hoped the Liberals would work with him to oust the Social Democrats, angrily accused the party of “an epic betrayal of liberal values”, rhetoric which underlined the shattering of the centre-right bloc in the city.
“The Liberals' switching sides to the socialist bloc is not just a betrayal of those who voted Liberal,” he wrote on Facebook. “It is a betrayal of all Malmö citizens who voted for the Alliance and for a change of rule in Malmö.”
He posted a picture of the three Alliance leaders flashing victory signs on election night to underline the shift.
Kursar said it was “unfortunate” that Tegnhammar had “felt the need to use these kind of hard words”, pointing out that more than two thirds of the party's members organisation in the city had backed the decision.
“I think he owes our members more respect than to call them traitors,” he told The Local.
The Centre Party leader Niels Paarup-Petersen was more measured, expressing his “great respect for Roko as a friend and as a person”, but saying he was nonetheless “extremely sad and disappointed”.
“The Social Democrats have yet again managed to cling on to power,” he wrote on Facebook. “To be honest, I am not so bothered that this is bad for cooperation within the Alliance. Instead, I'm extremely concerned that it is bad for Malmö that the Liberals have now strengthened Social Democrat power.”
He posted up a picture of the three leaders in happier times during the election campaign.
On 15 October, the Liberal and Centre parties in Malmö abstained in a vote for city mayor, allowing Stjernfeldt Jammeh to retain the position she has held since 2013.
In an article in Sydsvenskan a few days before the vote, Kursar argued that although backing the Moderate candidate would have opened the way to forming an Alliance government in the city, that government would have been dependent on support from the Sweden Democrats, something his party's members could not tolerate.
But coalition negotiations with the Social Democrats also failed at first after a powerful section of the Liberal party's local members resisted the offer.
Negotiations between the Social Democrats and the Centre Party failed over the latter's demand that its candidate Paarup Pedersen should be given the mayor position.
Nationally, the Liberal Party is split over which way to turn following September's election result, with Torskild Strandberg, the party's strongman in the nearby city of Landskrona, among others, arguing that it should stick with the centre-right Alliance, even if this gives the populist Sweden Democrats some influence.
Kursar said on Tuesday that he had been too engaged in negotiations at a local level to analyse the situation nationally.
“Malmö is in a situation where we need to take responsibility and the Liberals have decided to take responsibility,” he told Sydsvenskan.”Now we have the chance to truly push Malmö in a liberal direction fo the first time in 24 years.”
Despite the photograph Tegnhammar posted of the three celebrating on the night of the election, he said it was now obvious that the Alliance had not won the election in the city.
“We went into the election with the Alliance, but the Alliance didn't win,” he said. “During the entire election campaign I was open about the fact that we were't closing any doors, apart from to the Sweden Democrats and the Left Party.”