Sweden’s right-wing in talks to form govt with far-right

The Sweden Democrats rose up out of neo-Nazi groups and the “Keep Sweden Swedish” movement in the early 1990s, entering parliament in 2010 with 5.7 per cent of votes

Sweden Democrat Party leader Jimmie Akesson reacts after a political rally in Stockholm, Sweden on 19 August, 2022Reuters

Sweden’s incoming leader got to work Thursday on the thorny task of building a government supported for the first time by the far-right, a day after securing a slim election victory.

Conservative Moderates chief Ulf Kristersson was expected to be formally tasked sometime next week with forming a government after Social Democratic prime minister Magdalena Andersson on Thursday tendered her resignation.

While the far-right Sweden Democrats became the biggest party on the right with 20 per cent of votes, observers said it was unlikely the anti-immigration and nationalist party would be given cabinet seats due to divisions in the right-wing bloc.

The small Liberal party has said it would withdraw its support for Kristersson -- which would leave him without a majority -- if he includes the far-right in the government.

With 176 seats -- 73 of them going to the Sweden Democrats -- the four-party coalition will have a slim majority over Andersson’s left bloc, which won 173, according to final results presented Thursday.

The narrow majority leaves the right-wing bloc fragile, with the four parties fiercely opposed on a number of issues, especially the Liberals and Sweden Democrats.

If a few disgruntled MPs jump ship, it could end up flipping the balance of power in parliament.

The rise of the far-right has divided voters and parties alike

The bloc is at odds over international aid, unemployment benefits, asylum laws and legal reforms to staunch a wave of gang shootings and bombings that have rocked Sweden in recent years.

“This is a difficult parliamentary situation,” Gothenburg University political scientist Mikael Gilljam told AFP.

Sweden Democrats leader Jimmie Akesson said on election night that obtaining cabinet posts was the party’s “goal”, but he has also made it clear that he was ready to present a long list of demands in exchange for the party’s informal support outside government.

The party would in such case be able to heavily influence policy without being held accountable, with some analysts suggesting that was actually the far-right’s preferred option.

Ready to talk

Andersson became Sweden’s first woman prime minister in November 2021, and now its shortest-serving leader since 1936.

She has warned that the far-right’s strong election score could legitimise and increase the risk of “hatred, threats and violence”, and said Thursday she was willing to collaborate with arch-rival Kristersson to preclude such a scenario.

“If the Moderates change their minds and want to cooperate with me instead of the far-right, my door is open”.

Speaker of parliament Andreas Norlen said Thursday he would summon party leaders for talks next week before assigning Kristersson the task of building a government, opening a period of formal negotiations.

But Kristersson, 58, has already rolled up his sleeves and held meetings with the leaders of the Christian Democrats, Sweden Democrats and Liberals.

“I now begin the work of forming a new and strong government,” Kristersson said on Wednesday evening in a post on Facebook after final vote counting gave his side the win.

“Now we will restore order in Sweden!”

Never before has a Swedish government relied on the support of the far-right.

‘Make Sweden great again’

The Sweden Democrats rose up out of neo-Nazi groups and the “Keep Sweden Swedish” movement in the early 1990s, entering parliament in 2010 with 5.7 per cent of votes.

Long shunned by other parties, they have registered strong growth in each subsequent election, and its hardline stance on crime and integration set the tone in this year’s vote.

Kristersson, a former gymnast, led a major U-turn for his party when he initiated exploratory talks in 2019 with the Sweden Democrats and then deepened their cooperation.

The Christian Democrats, and to a lesser extent the Liberals, later followed suit.

In a post to Facebook on Wednesday, the 43-year-old populist leader Akesson thanked “friends of Sweden” around the country, and noted that negotiating a new government was “a process that will take the time it needs”.

“Now the work begins of making Sweden great again,” he said.

The rise of the far-right has divided voters and parties alike.

Centre Party leader Annie Loof, a fierce opponent of the far-right who switched her party from the right bloc to the left in recent years, said Thursday she was stepping down after 11 years, citing in part the “hateful rhetoric” during the campaign.