Sweden’s Centre Party leader abandons bid to break political deadlock

UPDATED: The leader of Sweden's Centre Party, Annie Lööf, on Thursday announced she was abandoning her bid to try to break Sweden's political deadlock after a week of cross-party talks.

Sweden's Centre Party leader abandons bid to break political deadlock
Annie Lööf on her way in to meet the media. Photo: Jessica Gow / TT

Lööf's meeting with parliamentary speaker Andreas Norlén lasted an hour longer than expected, but she confirmed she had been unable to find support for a workable government and added that she did not see any possibility of leading a minority government herself.

“In such an unclear parliamentary situation as we have now, one side needs to tolerate the other in order to reach a solution to the question of government,” Lööf said. “There is currently no basis for this.”

“It is now up to the speaker to decide the next step,” she said, adding that there would be no sense in her asking for more time to carry out exploratory talks. 

She explained that there was significant cross-party agreement on the areas of defence and schools but named labour and migration policies as topics that were difficult to find common ground on.

SWEDEN IN FOCUS: How did the political situation get to where it is today?

Lööf was last week given the role of sonderingsperson, tasked with carrying out cross-bloc talks aimed at finding a solution to the deadlock that has lasted over two months since the September election. Over the past week, she has met several times with the Social Democrats and the Green Party, who together form a centre-left bloc and have led Sweden in a minority government for the past four years. 

The September election left neither the centre-left nor the four-party centre-right Alliance — comprising the Moderates, Christian Democrats, Centre Party and Liberals — with a majority, and just one seat separates the two blocs. In the two and a half months since then, both the Social Democrats and Moderates have tried and failed to break the deadlock.

The biggest stumbling block has been the fact that two parties in the Alliance, the Moderates and Christian Democrats, have so far refused to work with the centre-left. But that would require them to rely on support from the far-right Sweden Democrats, something the Centre Party and Liberals are opposed to.

Lööf said she looked into three alternatives: the Alliance working with the Social Democrats, the Alliance working with the Green Party, and a minority centrist government made up of the Centre Party and Liberals.

There is no set deadline by which Sweden must form a government, but the number of prime ministerial votes that can be held before a snap election is automatically called is capped at four.

Three of these chances remain after Moderates leader Ulf Kristersson was not accepted by parliament, due to the Centre Party and Liberals refusing to back a government that relied on support from the far-right Sweden Democrats. This means the country is now in untested waters — previously, parliament had always accepted the first candidate to be proposed.

Lööf cancelled a planned event on Wednesday and was also absent from parliamentary debates over several proposed law changes due to the ongoing talks.

Shortly after Lööf announced her decision, the speaker issued a statement in which he said he would contact the different party leaders by telephone during the day and that he will hold a press conference on Friday.

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TikTok shuts down Sweden Democrats’ anonymous accounts

TikTok has closed down the Sweden Democrats’ anonymous accounts after a Swedish documentary revealed that the far-right party operated a secret social media troll farm.

TikTok shuts down Sweden Democrats' anonymous accounts

The documentary, by broadcaster TV4’s Kalla Fakta programme, identified 23 anonymous social media accounts controlled by the Sweden Democrats’ communications team.

Those included 13 accounts on Chinese-owned video hosting app TikTok, which have all been shut down, the platform confirmed to Swedish news agency TT on Monday.

TikTok declined to comment on why they had removed the accounts.

Sweden Democrat press officer Oskar Cavalli-Björkman said the party was trying to contact TikTok to find out why the accounts had been closed, but declined to comment further.

In the Kalla Fakta documentary, a reporter went undercover within the Sweden Democrats’ communications department. They revealed a number of things, including attempts at smear campaigns on politicians from other parties.

It also revealed a total of 23 different anonymous accounts spread across TikTok, YouTube, Instagram and Facebook, which are all run by the Sweden Democrats and also spread for example radical anti-immigration views.

These accounts have a combined 260,000 followers and published roughly 1,000 posts in the first three months of the year, which were viewed over 27 million times.