Sweden Budget Talks Fail, Early Elections Likely

Conservative and liberal opposition parties refuse to support the left-wing government’s spending plans.

Stefan Löfven, leader of the Swedish Social Democratic Party, delivers a speech in Stockholm, August 10
Stefan Löfven, leader of the Swedish Social Democratic Party, delivers a speech in Stockholm, August 10 (Socialdemokraterna/Anders Löwdin)

Sweden’s conservative and liberal opposition parties rejected overtures from Social Democratic Party prime minister Stefan Löfven on Tuesday night to support his minority government’s budget, saying it would vote for its own budget proposal instead. That could leave Löfven with little choice but to resign and call snap elections only two months after taking office.

“We were clear on that we would vote ‘yes’ to the Alliance proposal and we have seen nothing to change that,” the Moderate Party’s Anna Kinberg Batra told reporters after meeting with members of the government.

The Moderates are the biggest of the four parties in the Alliance bloc that governed Sweden until September when Löfven’s Social Democrats won a plurality of the seats in parliament with 31 percent support.

Despite falling short of a majority, the Social Democrats formed a government with their Green Party allies.

The crisis was triggered when the opposition Sweden Democrats announced their intention earlier on Tuesday to also vote against the coalition’s budget proposal, complaining that it raised taxes on the elderly while doing nothing to curtail immigration.

If the nationalists back the Alliance’s spending plan, Löfven would be legally obligated to carry out it out.

Löfven censured the Sweden Democrats for acting in an “exceptionally irresponsible manner,” saying they intended to “knock out any government that doesn’t dance to their tune.”

Although the Sweden Democrats are the third largest party in parliament and hold the balance of power, all other parties have ruled out collaborating with them because of their anti-immigration views.

Löfven insisted the Alliance had no choice but to support the government or govern Sweden with the support of the Sweden Democrats. The Center Party’s Annie Lööf rejected that assertion. “Only Stefan Löfven can show the way forward now,” she said.

Löfven could resign and try to form a new government in the existing parliament. Or he could call an early election.

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