Monday 21 January 2019

Far-right is kingmaker in Swedish vote 'chaos'

Anti-immigrant: Jimmie Akesson, leader of the Sweden Democrats. Photo: REUTERS
Anti-immigrant: Jimmie Akesson, leader of the Sweden Democrats. Photo: REUTERS

Peter Foster in Brussels

Sweden's mainstream political parties must engage with the hard-right Sweden Democrats if they want to have any hope of a stable government in the next four years, the party's leader claimed yesterday.

The warning came as the anti-immigration party found itself as potential kingmaker after making gains in last weekend's inconclusive general election, which has left the country facing months of "chaos" and horse-trading.

"He who understands first that he can talk to me will have the easiest time building a government and leading this country," said Jimmie Akesson, the leader of the Sweden Democrats.

However, both of Sweden's mainstream political groups have ruled out forming a coalition with Mr Akesson's party, which has white supremacist roots but has cleaned up its image to capitalise on rising anti-immigration sentiment.

Sunday's general election was the first since Sweden took in a record 163,000 refugees in 2015 - the highest per capita of any European country.

Mr Akessson's party increased its vote share by almost 5pc from the previous election in 2014 to secure a projected 62 seats. The gains meant that both Sweden's two main political groupings fell well short of the 175 needed to form a government.

Stefan Löfven, Sweden's Social Democratic prime minister, said he would seek to remain in power as the leader of the largest party, and invited the opposition Alliance bloc to break the deadlock in some form of grand coalition.

Telling his supporters that "a party with roots in Nazism" would "never, ever offer anything responsible but hatred", Mr Löfven said that mainstream parties had a "moral responsibility" to work together.

The four-party opposition Alliance, which has just one seat fewer that Mr Löfven's bloc, rejected the overture. "This government has had its chance. It has to resign," said Ulf Kristersson, the Alliance opposition leader.

With the Social Democrats winning only 28.4pc of votes - down 2.6 points from 2014, and their worst score in a century - experts said that Mr Löfven's position remains weak. Even the party's parliamentary group leader, Anders Ygeman, conceded that forming a government could now take "weeks, months".

The tabloid 'Expressen' headlined its front page yesterday: "Chaos".

Experts said moderate parties still hold the key to coalition. "If the red-green bloc is bigger, the centre and the liberals hold the key and not Jimmie Akesson," said Mikael Gilliam, of the University of Gothenburg. Despite the prospect of instability, the result was seen positively by the EU as a relative victory. (© Daily Telegraph, London)

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