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Europe

Swedish ruling coalition looks to block far-right from power

Sweden’s ruling Alliance coalition is looking for a way to achieve a majority in parliament without having to rely on an emerging far-right party. The Sweden Democrats have gained their first-ever seats.

Publicity displays showing Fredrik Reinfeldt

Reinfeldt's group must be creative to exclude the far-right

After losing its majority in parliament, Sweden's ruling center-right coalition is looking for a way to exclude the far-right Sweden Democrats from power.

The coalition emerged with the most votes in parliamentary elections on Sunday, but now needs a new partner to avoid dependence on the anti-immigration Sweden Democrats which, for the first time, gained the necessary 4 percent of the vote needed to enter parliament.

Prime Minister Fredrik Reinfeldt's Alliance - consisting of the Moderate Party, the Liberal Party, the Christian Democrats and the Center Party - won 49.2 percent of votes according to a final ballot count. That figure translates to 172 seats in a 349-seat parliament in Sunday's vote.

"We have received broad support tonight," Reinfeldt told supporters in Stockholm, noting that his own party, the Moderates, had seen support double from 15 percent in 2002 to 30 percent.

Jimmie Akesson, leader of the right-wing Sweden Democrats party, licks his ballot envelope

Akesson, of the Sweden Democrats, says immigrants are not being targeted

Reinfeldt won power in 2006, after 12 years of rule by the Social Democrats, promising to preserve the Swedish welfare state, cut taxes and provide greater incentives for the unemployed to return to work.

However, the prime minister added, "this is not the election result we had hoped for," referring to the entry of the right-wing Sweden Democrats' entry into parliament.

Neo-Nazi roots

The Sweden Democrats had won 5.7 percent of the votes for 20 seats in the 349-seat legislature, according to preliminary results from 99 percent of voting districts. The left-wing opposition coalition gained 43.7 percent of the ballot, winning 157 seats.

"I have been clear… We will not cooperate with or be made dependent on the Sweden Democrats," said Reinfeldt.

The Sweden Democrats have their roots in 1980s and 1990s neo-Nazi movements but have tried to shed their extremist image, gaining numerous local council seats in elections in 2006.

Party leader Jimmie Akesson said his party was not targeting immigrants but the country's "failed immigration policies." One of the party's main goals is a significant reduction in immigration and a policy of assimilation rather than integration.

Plea to the greens

Prime Minister Reinfeldt said that he was prepared to lead a minority government but also indicated that he would turn to the Green Party, which has scored its best result ever with 7.2 percent of the vote.

The Greens, who campaigned as part of the left-wing coalition, rejected the idea outright.

Social Democrat leader Mona Sahlin, who had hoped to become Sweden's first female prime minister, said that the far-right's success had put Sweden in a "dangerous position."

Author: Richard Connor (AFP, Reuters, AP)
Editor: Andreas Illmer

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