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Sweden grudgingly gives Stefan Lofven another term as PM

With the far right rising, centre-right parties agree to keep the Social Democrat in power, for now ...  Stefan LofvenStefan Lofven

Stockholm, Jan.18.– In most democracies, one side needs at least a plurality of the votes to form a government. Not so in Sweden, a polite country with a system of “negative parliamentarianism”: a candidate can become prime minister so long as an absolute majority of the Riksdag, the country’s parliament, does not explicitly object.

The result can resemble a family that keeps ordering the same unloved pizza because it cannot agree on anything else. On January 18th, 153 MPs voted against a second term for Stefan Lofven (pictured, right), the Social Democrat who has served as prime minister since 2014. Just 115 backed him, but 77 abstained, meaning Mr Lofven will continue nonetheless.

Sweden is one of a long list of countries driven to the brink of paralysis by the rise of populism. It had gone four months without a government after the far-right Sweden Democrats (SD) took 17.5% of the vote in an election on September 9th. Other parties shun the SD due to the party’s roots in the neo-Nazi movement in the early 1990s. With the rest of the seats in parliament split almost evenly between the left and the right, neither Mr Lofven nor his chief counterpart, Ulf Kristersson of the centre-right Moderates, were able to form a coalition.

Mr Lofven’s formula for holding power involved splitting the four-party conservative coalition, known as the Alliance, which governed Sweden from 2006-14. After long negotiations, he reached an agreement with the centre-right Centre and Liberal parties. They agreed to abstain, though they will not join the government. That leaves the Moderates and the smaller Christian Democrats grumbling in opposition.

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