Swedish prime minister Stefan Löfven has done a deal with opposition parties to keep his government in office and stave off snap elections that were otherwise due in March.
“Sweden has a tradition of solving difficult questions,” the Social Democratic Party leader said on Sunday.
“I am happy we have reached a deal that means that Sweden can be governed.”
Under the agreement, Löfven, who governs in a coalition with the Greens, will mostly carry out the spending plans of the center-right Alliance parties.
Neither the two ruling parties nor the four parties in the Alliance have a majority. The nationalist Sweden Democrats hold the balance of power in parliament, but they are shunned by the mainstream parties because of their anti-immigration views.
The Sweden Democrats threatened to bring down the government in early December, when they supported the Alliance’s budget proposal.
Löfven, who won the election in September on a promise to reverse many of the economic and social policies of the right, announced his intention to resign and call snap elections rather than carry out the opposition’s spending plans.
The new deal means he will carry out those plans. But the Alliance parties agreed Löfven will be allowed to start making changes in the spring.
They have also promised not to vote down any of the government’s budgets going forward.
As a result, the left cannot tinker with income taxes for at least a year but can raise employer contributions — money that could be used to finance labor reforms or higher spending on schools.
The Sweden Democrats, whose ability to hold either bloc hostage suddenly melted away this weekend, were exasperated.
Deputy party leader Mattias Karlsson told Svenska Dagbladet it was “startling and regrettable” that the other parties should cancel early elections. He was especially critical of the Alliance, saying it was “remarkable” it had promised not to get any of its policies through.
There was criticism from inside the Alliance as well. The Moderate Party’s Carl-Johan Sonesson from Malmö, Sweden’s third-largest city, wondered in an interview with the Sydsvenskan newspaper what exactly the right had gained by giving up the chance to influence economic policy during the remainder of Löfven’s term?
Ewa Stenberg, a political commentator for Dagens Nyheter, argues the Alliance parties have nevertheless gained, because Löfven failed in his attempt to break them up.
The prime minister had tried to persuade the more centrist parties in the opposition bloc to prop up his government, which they refused.
While most Swedish media hail the left-right pact, the Göteborgs-Posten is critical of the prime minister in its editorial, pointing out that Löfven could have avoided weeks of turmoil if only his minority government had accepted the Alliance’s budget proposal in the first place.