Swedish Prime Minister Stefan Lofven was voted out in a confidence vote in parliament as the center-right opposition and the nationalists joined forces to end four years of Social Democratic rule.
The vote sets up lengthy government talks. An election two weeks ago left Lofven’s coalition with a lead of just one seat over the Alliance opposition and saw the Sweden Democrats grab 62 seats in the 349-person legislature. With the nationalists as power-brokers, there’s no clear path to power for either of the two establishment blocs.
Lofven, 61, had refused to resign, pointing to his narrow lead and calling for cross-the-aisle talks to form a broad government and keep the nationalists from gaining influence.
It was the first time in history that a Swedish prime minister was ousted in a confidence vote. But Lofven remained defiant, saying there’s still a good possibility of returning to power and that he would never act as a support party for the Alliance. Such a government is also “unrealistic” since they have all vowed not to rule with support of the nationalists, he said at a press conference in parliament.
Ulf Kristersson, leader of the largest opposition party, the Moderates, said the vote was never in doubt. “There was a clear majority that the government shouldn’t stay,” he said. “That’s the starting point. Now it’s up to the speaker to assess the options.”
The four-party Alliance and Sweden Democrats on Monday also joined up to elect a new speaker, Andreas Norlen. Starting on Thursday, the speaker will hold talks with all the parties to gauge who will be best able to form a coalition to steer the largest Nordic economy. He said it’s important for the speaker to stand above party politics.
Part of the consideration will be if there’s enough support to pass a budget bill. “I will give that a lot of thought before a government formation,” Norlen said on Monday. Lofven will remain as a caretaker prime minister until a new government is confirmed.
Right now, none of the sides have enough votes to pass a spending plan. The Alliance is split on whether to seek further support from the nationalists. The Center and Liberal parties are opposed to cooperation, while the Moderates and Christian Democrats are open to passive support.
At the same time, both the Sweden Democrats and the Social Democrats are working to split the Alliance, seeking either a smaller right-wing government or a broader bipartisan coalition. The Liberal and Center parties are pushing for an Alliance government that has backing from the Social Democrats, which Lofven rejects.