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Swedish PM quits in political shake-up

By CHEN WEIHUA in Brussels | CHINA DAILY | Updated: 2022-09-16 10:28
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Swedish Prime Minister Magdalena Andersson addresses a press conference in Stockholm on September 14, 2022. [Photo/Agencies]

Exit follows left-leaning camp's failure to retain majority after tight election

Swedish Prime Minister Magdalena Andersson resigned on Thursday, the day after conceding her center-left coalition's defeat in a close election. But many believe the winning right-wing coalition may struggle to form a new government.

With 99 percent of the votes counted from Sunday's election, the four-party, right-wing coalition-comprising the Moderates, the Sweden Democrats, the Christian Democrats and the Liberals-has won 176 of the 349 seats in the parliament compared with the center-left group's 173.

Andersson, who became Sweden's first female prime minister in November, said the results showed that her opponents have won.

"I will therefore … ask the speaker to be relieved of my post," the 55-year-old outgoing prime minister told a news conference on Wednesday.

She will remain as leader of the Social Democrats, which won 30.4 percent of the vote in the election according to the latest count. While Andersson's party, which has long dominated the Swedish political landscape, remains the single biggest party in the parliament, its coalition partners failed to secure enough seats for a majority.

The Sweden Democrats, known for their far-right stance on issues such as immigration, have emerged as the second-biggest party with 20.6 percent of the vote, replacing the conservative Moderates, which obtained support of just 19.1 percent, the latest tally shows.

However, Ulf Kristersson, the leader of the Moderates, is expected to become the new prime minister as other parties in the coalition do not favor Sweden Democrats leader Jimmie Akesson taking the job.

In a video message, Kristersson said that he will now start the work of forming a new government "that can get things done" and "for all of Sweden and all citizens".

'Mandate for change'

"We have the mandate for change we asked for," he said.

"There is a big frustration in society, a fear of the violence, concern about the economy, the world is very uncertain and the political polarization has become far too big also in Sweden," said the 58-yearold politician, adding that he wants "to unite, not divide".

Akesson said on Wednesday night that his Sweden Democrats party would be "a constructive and driving force in this work" of rebuilding safety in Sweden, and that it was "time to put Sweden first".

"Our success in the election implies a heavy responsibility to voters, which we will manage as well as we can and with respect," he said. His party has moderated its message to the electorate after expelling extremist members, beginning in the 1990s.

The outgoing Andersson cautioned that Sweden is now going to get an administration that is only one or two parliamentary seats away from a government crisis. She said that her door was open to Kristersson if he wanted to rethink his alliance with the Sweden Democrats.

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

"There are a lot of big questions in our society today that in some ways haven't been addressed correctly and I think that a lot of people have been waiting for a change," 28-year-old psychologist Axel Lundstrom told Agence France-Presse.

Besides domestic challenges, Sweden is also in the process of joining NATO, a major shift in its security stance. Sweden will also take over the six-month rotating presidency of the Council of the EU in January. The rising Sweden Democrats are also known for their wary stance on the EU.

Carl Bildt, a former Swedish prime minister and former head of the Moderates, said on Twitter on Wednesday that "it will take a couple of weeks to get in place" a new government under Kristersson.

Agencies contributed to the story.




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