Sweden’s Left Hopes to Lure Centrists Into Coalition

Sweden’s Social Democrats must convince centrist parties to back them or form a minority government instead.

View of Stockholm, Sweden, July 16, 2012
View of Stockholm, Sweden, July 16, 2012 (Abhimanyu)

Sweden’s Social Democrat leader Stefan Löfven reached out to smaller centrist parties on Monday after failing to win an outright majority for his coalition in an election the day before.

“The hand is there outstretched,” Löfven, a former trade unionist, told reporters. “Now we are going to start talks with the Green Party and then continue with the Left Party and then we will make contact also with the Center Party and the Liberal Party.”

Löfven’s Social Democrats became Sweden’s largest party with 31 support in Sunday’s election but fell more than sixty seats short of a legislative majority.

The Greens and Left Party supported the last Social Democrat government that was in office until 2006 when now outgoing prime minister John Fredrik Reinfeldt came to power. Reinfeldt’s Moderates, who lost almost a quarter of their seats on Sunday, ruled in coalition with the Center Party, the Liberal People’s Party and the Christian Democrats.

Reinfeldt told supporters in Stockholm on election night he would resign as Moderate Party leader following his defeat.

Before the election, Center and the liberals said they would not join the Social Democrats in government. But the three parties on the left are now more than a dozen seats short of a majority.

Moreover, the Greens and Social Democrats reject the Left’s proposal to ban profits from hospitals and schools and might fear that a formal alliance with what used to be Sweden’s communist party could cause them to lose support from centrist voters.

The anti-immigration and Euroskeptic Sweden Democrats could give either side a majority. The party doubled its share of the vote to 13 percent. But all other parties have ruled out entering into a coalition with what they perceive to be a far-right movement.

A minority government led by Löfven and counting on centrist parties to support individual pieces of legislation is likely — but far from desirable, writes the liberal Svenska Dagbladet‘s Per Gudmundson.

He argues, “The Social Democrats are painted in the left-wing corner” — assuming they form a coalition with the Left Party — “where center politics becomes impossible.” Opposition parties also have little incentive to cooperate with a minority government when there is always a nonsocialist majority that includes the Sweden Democrats. “It is a nightmare scenario for a government leader.”

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