STOCKHOLM — Sweden’s new prime minister, Ulf Kristersson, presented his plan for a three-party government on Friday with a clear underlying message: Sweden first.
The number of asylum seekers allowed to enter Sweden will be reduced, the amount of international aid the country will provide will be reduced and its aspirations to be a pioneer in the global shift to renewable energy will be tempered, Kristersson told reporters. in parliament.
Kristersson, the narrow winner of the September 11 general election, said his new government would be made up of his moderate party and two other centre-right parties, the Christian Democrats and the Liberals.
The far-right Swedish Democrats (SD) have been barred from government but will provide the parliamentary support Kristersson will need to become prime minister and make his policies and spending plans a reality.
The cost of shutting down the SD, which has its roots in the neo-Nazi groups of the 1990s, while securing its parliamentary support was high in political terms.
The new government’s plan – dubbed ‘A Deal for Sweden’ – was heavily influenced by SD election promises in areas ranging from welfare to law and order to energy .
Penalties for serious and organized crimes must be increased, more nuclear power plants must be built, and social security payments to those made redundant will not be reduced.
But it is probably with regard to Sweden’s role on the international scene that SD’s views are most felt: the number of asylum seekers that the Nordic country will accept must be reduced to a minimum of the EU and a previous target of allocating 1% of gross national income to international aid is about to be scrapped.
Essentially, the days when Sweden aspired to become a “humanitarian superpower” are over.
Kristersson said a compromise with the SD and its other allies was needed to create the new government he believed Sweden needed.
“We did what we said during the election campaign,” Kristersson said. “We have reached an agreement which we believe is good for Sweden.”
Parliament will vote on Kristersson’s candidacy for prime minister on Monday, with Friday’s deal clearing the way for him to win that vote 176-173. He is expected to announce his ministerial team on Tuesday and his budget for 2023 in the coming weeks.
Once installed, the new government will face a series of national challenges ranging from soaring energy prices to increasing gang crime.
On the international stage, Sweden takes over the Presidency of the EU Council from the Czech Republic in January and the government will have to reconcile the anti-EU tendencies of the SD with the pro-European leanings of the wider government until then. .
Sweden is also about to negotiate its entry into NATO alongside Finland. Kristersson left the outgoing Social Democratic government’s key negotiator, Oscar Stenström, in place to facilitate this process.
Critics were quick to suggest that inherent tensions in the new government and its supporting SD party will make it difficult to maintain government stability over a four-year term.
Analysts note that at any time the SD can team up with the Social Democrats and create a majority on any policy in parliament, giving the SD powerful leverage over the new coalition.
However, if the SD pushes too hard, the government may fall back, allowing the Social Democrats to return to power and depriving the SD of its current influence.
On Friday, Kristersson, a former social affairs minister who became leader of the Moderate Party in 2017, was positive about the task at hand and the deal the new government had reached.
“I’m not saying it’s going to be easy, but the common values we have on important issues provide a solid foundation to build on,” he said.