Swedish centre-right leader Ulf Kristersson said coalition talks to form a new government had gotten off to a constructive start.
Mr Kristersson, leader of the centre-right moderates, was given the mandate for political negotiations after his conservative-liberal bloc won the Swedish general election. He is likely to form a minority government with smaller allied parties, but will have to rely on political support from the opposition, most likely the far-right Swedish Democrats (SD).
The SD was the biggest winner in the election, gaining the support of one in five voters to become the country’s second largest party.
A week after the election, the speaker of parliament, Andreas Norlén, received political leaders, but not the leader of the Social Democratic Party and outgoing prime minister, Magdalena Andersson. After her center-left bloc finished with three seats in the election, she only remains on an interim basis. The length of his term will depend on the simplicity – or complexity – of the upcoming coalition talks.
That in turn largely depends on Jimmie Åkesson, the populist SD leader, who insists he will bargain hard in return for his party’s support. At a press conference after the talks, Mr Åkesson pledged to “break the hundred years of social democratic hegemony in Sweden”.
“It’s important for us that this goes well,” he said. “For the SD, it’s a long-term thing.”
While Mr Åkesson insists his party wants to join the government, opposition from other centre-right parties means a formal coalition pact is unlikely.
Instead, the party will focus in talks – and in opposition – on setting its footprint on future immigration and asylum policy after an election dominated by public order concerns. While all center-right parties have common ground on tackling growing gang violence, it will be more difficult to meet SD demands for a “net zero” asylum policy.
Another likely area of tension will be social policy: while the moderates and their allies are demanding benefit cuts, the SD opposes them.
Another key factor in the coalition talks will be who will oversee them, and next Monday will see the election of a new chairman of Riskdsag (Swedish parliament). Outgoing President Andreas Norlén said he was happy to stay on for another term. However, as his moderates finished in third place, he may have to vacate his office for an SD candidate.
After initial talks, centre-right parties promised clarification on the next parliament speaker by the weekend.
The new president will oversee the confirmation of Mr Kristersson as prime minister at the end of the coalition talks. In 2018, it took four months for a new government to be sworn in. Although there is no time limit for post-election talks, Kristersson promised to wrap up the talks faster than last time.
Focused minds are Stockholm’s live application for NATO membership and the spiraling cost of living crisis. With inflation at 9%, its highest level since 1991, the Swedish central bank raised its interest rates by 1% on Monday, its biggest increase in three decades.
A week after its general elections, time is already running out for the Swedish coalition talks: after Christmas, Sweden takes over the rotating EU presidency for six months.