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Political stalemate in Sweden with far-right rise

Sweden's political future was unclear Monday after elections sent the far-right to parliament for the first time and deprived the ruling coalition of an outright majority by just three seats.

Prime Minister Fredrik Reinfeldt immediately ruled out a tie-up with the anti-immigrant Sweden Democrats, but the future make-up of his government remained foggy.

"The situation is unique in that there is now one party in parliament that no one wants to collaborate with," Lena Waengnerud, a political scientist at the University of Gothenburg, told AFP.

On the other hand, she pointed out, "we are kind of used to having minority governments, so it is not unique ... that the government coalition needs to incorporate also other parties in a collaboration."

Reinfeldt, 45, has clearly stated that he intends to seek support from the opposition Green Party.

"I have been clear ... We will not cooperate with or be made dependent on the Sweden Democrats," Reinfeldt said in his victory speech late Sunday, adding "I will turn to the Greens to get broader support in parliament."

The Greens, who became Sweden's third largest party with 25 seats and 7.2 percent of the vote, rebuffed, but then slightly opened the door to Reinfeldt's invitation.

"It would be very difficult for us after this campaign to look our voters in the eyes and say we have agreed to cooperate with this government," party co-chairwoman Maria Wetterstrand told Swedish public television late Sunday.

But on Monday, co-chairman Peter Eriksson said the Greens were willing to at least talk with Reinfeldt.

"We have to be able to speak to each other after such an unclear election result," he told public radio, stressing the final vote count would not be over until Wednesday.

"Our interpretation of what Reinfeldt is saying is that he says the (centre-right) Alliance will continue to govern and that worries me because I think they are underestimating the problem in this situation," he said, adding "but we'll see what he has to say."

If Reinfeldt is unable to shore up support from the Greens, observers say he will likely try to govern at the head of a minority government, in the hope the leftwing parties and the far-right will not cooperate to block his government initiatives.

But "there is a risk that new elections will be called", Jenny Madestam, a political scientist at the University of Stockholm told AFP ahead of Sunday's vote.

While acknowledging he did not get the result he hoped for, Reinfeldt could still celebrate what Swedish media on Monday described as a historic victory: his coalition is the first right-leaning government to be re-elected in Sweden in nearly a century.

Although narrow, his victory marks a crushing defeat for Social Democrat Mona Sahlin, 53, who was vying to become Sweden's first woman prime minister.

Her party, which has ruled Sweden for more than 80 percent of the past 80 years, scored barely above 30 percent, its worst score since 1914.

Dagens Nyheter, Sweden's leading daily, said that "the time when one party had a stranglehold on power and could decide over everything is thankfully over" under an editorial headline announcing: "The end of an era."

The Social Democrats had run in a coalition with the Greens and formerly communist Left Party, marking the first time the party did not run solo.

Despite a crushing loss, messages of support to Sahlin from party members poured in on Monday, as the press speculated about the career politician's future.

Media also lamented the major upset caused by the parliamentary presence of the far-right.

Daily Svenska Dagbladet noted Sweden had previously stood out by not having a party sharing the Sweden Democrats' anti-immigrant views represented in parliament

The party, headed by 31-year-old Jimmie Aakesson, obtained 5.7 percent of the vote -- more than the Left and Christian Democrat parties -- and 20 seats in parliament.

Aakesson called Sunday "a historic day both for me and the party", as he prepared to hold talks with all parties in parliament.

He was then invited to meet with the house speaker and later told reporters it was a practical meeting to discuss what to expect as a parliamentary party.

Aakesson said there had been no pressure on him to reveal the party's strategy.

"It was more practical information, and, as I interpreted it, a welcome greeting," he said.

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Last Updated (Monday, 20 September 2010 13:27)

 

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