Sweden’s centre-right leader Ulf Kristersson claims election victory and faces tough coalition talks – Reuters

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STOCKHOLM (Reuters) – Sweden’s centre-right opposition leader Ulf Kristersson won his country’s general election on Wednesday night after three days of meticulous vote counting that gave his team a slim three-seat advantage .

“We have an election result, we have the mandate for change that we have asked for,” Moderate Party leader Kristersson said when the result was announced. “I will now begin the process of forming a new government for Sweden and all its citizens.”

Outgoing Prime Minister Magdalena Andersson conceded defeat, saying it was clear her bid for re-election had failed. She said she would step down as prime minister on Thursday but would remain leader of the opposition Social Democrats.

As Prime Minister-in-waiting, Kristersson now faces a new challenge to assemble a functioning government from the disparate group of allies who back him to lead Sweden.

On the one hand, he has the far-right Swedish Democrats (SD), seen by many as the big winners in the election after a 21% rise in voter support, and who are demanding immigration laws and a policy stricter law enforcement. The SD edged out the moderates, who won 19% of the vote.

The SD, long ostracized by Sweden’s main parties because of its neo-Nazi roots, is under pressure from its constituents to turn a new alliance with moderates into real political influence for the first time.

“Our success in the elections comes with a heavy responsibility to the voters, which we will handle as best we can and with respect,” SD leader Jimmie Åkesson said on Wednesday.

Kristersson must now judge how well he can pander to SD demands without alienating more moderate elements within his own party and potential coalition partners, the Christian Democrats.

The Liberal Party, whose support Kristersson will also need to form a government, has been particularly wary of a rapprochement with the SD.

Liberal lawmaker Romina Pourmokhtari, a former leader of the party’s youth wing, said Wednesday she would vote against any government that includes the SD.

Sleepless nights

With his slim majority in parliament, Kristersson’s grip on power won’t be able to withstand much rebellion in the ranks. If just two lawmakers switch sides, it could open the door for incumbent Prime Minister Andersson to return.

“This is a very fragile government formation,” said Tomas Ramberg, political commentator at Sweden’s national radio station Radio. “There’s a lot here to give Kristersson sleepless nights.”

Political unrest is something Sweden cannot afford with an impending economic downturn and a pending NATO membership application. Sweden also takes over the rotating EU Council Presidency in January.

Talks have already started between Kristersson and his potential allies, which will continue before the Swedish parliament reopens on September 27.

Some early signs of tension within SD over the way forward have already emerged.

On Tuesday, reports from Sweden’s Aftonbladet daily suggested that two key SD figures – Party Secretary Richard Jomshof and parliamentary group leader Henrik Vinge – could not agree on whether to push for ministerial posts or nope.

The SD press office did not immediately respond to a request for comment on the speculation.

On Wednesday, Kristersson declined to comment on which of his allied parties would be part of his new government.

He said his goal was to garner support for political reforms to address issues such as high energy prices and rising violent crime in Sweden.

“There is nothing so bad in Sweden that it cannot be fixed with all that is so good,” he said. “Thank you for the trust you place in us.”



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