STOCKHOLM (Reuters) – Swedish Prime Minister Stefan Lofven resigned on Monday after losing a no-confidence motion last week, handing the speaker of parliament the job of finding a new government.
The speaker has four tries to get a PM who is supported by parliament. If he fails, there will be a snap election.
The left and right blocs are evenly balanced. Opinion polls point to an unclear result even after a national vote.
Lofven will remain as caretaker PM until a new government is in place.
Lofven’s party has headed a minority coalition with the Greens since 2014. Since 2018, he has also relied on support from two smaller centre-right parties, the Centre and Liberals, as well as the Left Party. The Left Party turned its back on him last week, however, and the Liberal Party has also jumped ship.
Lofven would need all the above parties on board to form a viable government unless the Centre and Left parties can agree on a budget, something the Centre Party has rejected.
Ulf Kristersson’s centre-right Moderates are the biggest opposition party.
The Moderates have backing from the Christian Democrats, Liberals and the populist, anti-immigration Sweden Democrats. But without the Centre Party, formerly part of the centre-right bloc, they are short of a majority in parliament.
Leader Annie Loof turned her back on her former centre-right allies in 2014 to support rival Stefan Lofven rather than allow the Sweden Democrats to influence policy in a centre-right government.
She has rejected overtures from Moderate leader Kristersson to return to the fold.
The Liberals also turned their back on the centre-right opposition bloc in 2014, but have since changed their minds. Opinion polls show the Liberals under the 4% threshold for seats in parliament, however, making a snap election a big risk for them.
The party with roots in the far-right fringe has redrawn Sweden’s political map since entering parliament in 2010 and then cementing its position as a key to forming any centre-right government.
Leader Jimmie Akesson has said the Sweden Democrats do not need to be a formal part of any coalition government, but he wants influence in proportion to his party’s size.
The junior party in Lofven’s coalition has maintained their alliance over eight years. Opinion polls show them under the 4% threshold for seats in parliament.
Sweden’s former communist party has grudgingly backed Lofven’s government despite having no formal influence, fearing the worse option of a right-wing government. It withdrew its backing over government plans to ease rent controls on new-build housing.
WHO WILL WIN IF THERE IS A GENERAL ELECTION?
Opinion polls show an election might not solve the crisis and that the Liberal and the Green parties could drop out of parliament completely.
A scheduled election will take place regardless in September 2022.
Up to 2014, Sweden had two main blocs. The Social Democrats, Greens and Left sat on one side, the Moderates, Christian Democrats, Centre and Liberals – known as the Alliance – on the other. The Sweden Democrats were initially frozen out by all the other parties.
In 2018, an inconclusive election meant that no bloc could form a government without the Sweden Democrats. After four months of talks, the Centre and Liberals ended the impasse by backing Lofven in return for a formal policy agreement.
With the Liberals returning to the Alliance, the political situation is deadlocked again.
(Reporting by Simon Johnson; Editing by Catherine Evans)