Swedish Alliance to Test Nationalists' Resolve in Power Gambit

(Bloomberg) -- Sweden’s center-right Alliance may put the nationalists to test.

The four-party group faces a tough road without a majority and is deeply split on whether to accept support from the Sweden Democrats, the anti-immigration party that emerged as a power broker in the election a little more than two weeks ago. The group is nonetheless putting itself forward as the most viable government alternative when talks kick off on Thursday.

Swedish Alliance to Test Nationalists' Resolve in Power Gambit

The disarray follows political turmoil around Europe, where gains of populists and anti-EU parties have upended decades of political tradition. Sweden’s Social Democrats posted their worst result in a century and the nationalist surge is now testing the cohesion of the Alliance, a grouping of Sweden’s center-right parties formed in 2004.

Alliance leaders, led by the Moderate Party’s Ulf Kristersson, are calling on ousted Prime Minister Stefan Lofven to set aside bloc politics and back them. Lofven is calling on the Alliance to do the same in reverse.

Kristersson reiterated that he’s seeking to form an Alliance government after meeting with the speaker on Thursday. According to people familiar with his party’s strategy, it will first try the support in parliament for such a government and if that fails go ahead with alternatives including a smaller Moderates-led coalition that could rely on the Sweden Democrats.

Force the Issue

The Alliance would try to force the issue in the hope that the Sweden Democrats will cave because of their dislike for Lofven. The two sides this week already used their majority in electing a new speaker and on Tuesday ousted Lofven in a dramatic parliamentary vote.

Forming a government with the support of the Sweden Democrats has been off limits for the smaller Center and Liberal parties. The nationalists are also reluctant to back a government with the Center Party, which is generally the most pro-immigration.

Lofven’s Never

After talks with the speaker on Thursday, Lofven again on Thursday rejected any notion that he would act as support for an Alliance government. While the group posted its worst election result in a 100 years, it remains the biggest party and sees itself as Sweden’s natural ruler after steering the country for much of the 20th century.

Lofven said he right now doesn’t want to speculate on who he may cooperate with but couldn’t exclude an eventual grand coalition.

The parties are meeting to discuss their views on the process of forming a government to the speaker, who will hold a press conference at about 5:45 p.m.

Sweden Democrat leader Jimmie Akesson said on Thursday that he’s not open to passively or actively supporting any government that doesn’t give him influence. He said he’s “not afraid ” of holding another election.

It’s hard to see how the Liberals and the Center party will get our “active or passive” support, he said after meeting with the speaker. The only way forward is some sort of communication between us and the Moderates and that he would prefer a Moderate and Christian Democrat government, he said.

Should Kristersson get the first shot and fail, the next attempt at forming a government may go to Lofven.

Bipartisan Solution

The Social Democrats are lobbying hard to fold the Center Party into the red-green coalition of Social Democrats, Greens and Left party. That constellation would hold a slim majority.

Ardalan Shekarabi, a key Social Democrat and minister of public administration since 2014, said on Wednesday that it’s obvious that a bipartisan solution is needed.

“At least two of the center-right parties -- the Center party and the Liberals -- have been clear that they don’t want to give SD any influence over government policy,” he said by phone. “The decent parties need to do what we can to cooperate to secure a decent rule of Sweden during the coming four years.”

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