Swedish leader to decide what’s best after confidence vote

COPENHAGEN, Denmark (AP) — The Swedish prime minister said Thursday he will wait to learn the outcome of no-confidence vote and then “think through what is best for Sweden” after a government ally won support from three opposition parties to unseat him.

If Prime Minister Stefan Lofven loses the vote on Monday, it could bring an abrupt end to his leadership of the Scandinavian country after seven years.

The Left Party said this week that it had lost confidence in Lofven and his center-left minority government, The small party said it would call for a no-confidence vote in the 349-seat Riksdag if the prime minister did not stop a proposal to abolish rent controls on newly built properties.

The Left Party, which is not in Lofven’s two-party government but has used its 27 parliament seats to back the coalition of Social Democrats and Greens. Its saber-rattling gives the party an opportunity to raise its profile.

Lofven called the Left Party’s threat “so hasty.” He said the wording of the plan at the center of the party’s demand was up for discussion and not finalized.

“Such a proposal doesn’t exist,” Lofven said. “To throw Sweden into a political crisis in this difficult situation for the country, it is not responsible,” the prime minister said, referring to the coronavirus pandemic and its consequences.

The prime minister has two options if a no-confidence motion passes: calling a snap election or putting in “a request for dismissal” and becoming the head of a caretaker government. There is no clear alternative to Lofven for prime minister.

On Thursday, three opposition parties — the center-right Moderates and the Christian Democrats, and the right-wing populist Sweden Democrats which is rooted in a neo-Nazi movement — said they would join the Left Party in voting against the government.

“This government should never have taken office. We have already voted ‘no’ to Stefan Lofven several times. We will, of course, do it again,” Moderate Party leader Ulf Kristerssons said.

The governing coalition holds 116 parliament seats. All together, the four parties opposing Lofven have 181 lawmakers. To succeed, a vote of no confidence must be supported by an absolute majority, which is 175 votes.

However, both the center-left and the center-right blocs have refused to cooperate with the Sweden Democrats, the country’s third-largest party, which made great strides in the September 2018 national election.

The party has for months criticized Lofven for not doing enough to fight immigration and crime. In recent years, the Sweden Democrats have worked to soften its image and has played a role in breaking down longstanding taboos on what Swedes could say openly about immigration and integration without being shunned as racists.

Sweden’s next parliamentary election is scheduled for next year. Political science professor Tommy Moller said he doubts there will be an early one called.

“The government will probably fall, and then Stefan Lofven returns with a new government,” he told Swedish news agency TT.

He said the Left Party had entered “a chicken race” and might bail on trying to send the prime minister packing because of the prospect of being forced to vote alongside the Sweden Democrats.