Swedish gov`t courts Greens, shuns far-right

PM Fredrik Reinfeldt`s coalition won Sunday`s election but lost its majority in 349-seat legislature.

Stockholm: Sweden`s prime minister sought help from the opposition Monday to avoid a political deadlock after an Islam-bashing far-right group spoiled his center-right government`s control of Parliament.

Prime Minister Fredrik Reinfeldt`s coalition won Sunday`s election but lost its majority in the 349-seat legislature, weakening its ability to push through crucial legislation.

The Sweden Democrats, a small nationalist party, entered Parliament for the first time, winning 20 seats to hold the balance of power between the center-right and the opposition left-wing bloc.
Reinfeldt reached out to the opposition Green Party because he has vowed not to govern with the Sweden Democrats, who demand sharp cuts in immigration and have called Islam Sweden`s greatest foreign threat since World War II.

Green Party co-leader Peter Eriksson on Monday suggested his party was open for talks, but noted there is a large divide between his party and the center-right bloc.

"It is still reasonable that we wait with anything like that until the election result is really complete," he told Swedish radio Monday, referring to the final count expected Wednesday.

"We stand up for taking the climate issue seriously and the government doesn`t, that is to say there are great political differences," he added.
Reinfeldt`s four-party alliance dropped to 172 seats — three short of a majority — compared to 154 seats for the Social Democrat-led opposition, according to preliminary official results. A final vote count is expected Wednesday.

The left-wing Social Democrats won only 30.8 percent of votes, its lowest result since universal suffrage was introduced in 1921. For this vote, it had it had joined forces for the first time with the smaller Left and Green parties.

Analysts said talks across the political divide were necessary for Reinfeldt to continue ruling with a minority government.

"The main lead is the idea that the Green Party should step over and enter some kind of deal with the alliance," Stig-Bjorn Ljunggren said, referring to the center-right bloc.

He also said the governing coalition would have to change its policies in several key areas to win over the Greens, including plans to build new nuclear reactors in Sweden and restrict sickness benefits.
If Reinfeldt fails to solve the impasse he will be left with a fragile minority government that could be forced to resign if it fails to push its legislation through Parliament.

"I have been clear on how we will handle this uncertain situation: We will not cooperate, or become dependent on, the Sweden Democrats," Reinfeldt, 45, said Sunday.

Sweden Democrats leader Jimmie Akesson on Sunday said his party had "written political history" in the election.
Large waves of immigration from the Balkans, Iraq and Iran have changed the demography of the once-homogenous Scandinavian country, and one-in-seven residents are now foreign-born. The Sweden Democrats say immigration has become an economic burden that drains the welfare system.

Reinfeldt`s coalition ousted the Social Democrats in 2006 and kept its promises to lower taxes and trim welfare benefits. Sweden`s export-driven economy is expected to grow by more than 4 percent this year while its 2010 budget gap is on track to be the smallest in the 27-nation European Union.

Bureau Report