Sweden shifts to left in parliamentary election

Associated Press

September 14

The result marks the end of an eight-year era of tax cuts and pro-market policies under Reinfeldt, who said he would also resign as leader of the conservative party. Many Swedes worried that his tax cuts have undermined the country’s famed welfare system.

His center-right Alliance has cut income and corporate taxes, abolished a tax on wealth and trimmed welfare benefits. It has also eased labor laws and privatized state-owned companies, including the maker of Absolut vodka.

Meanwhile, the gap between rich and poor has grown faster in Sweden than in most developed countries, though it remains among the world’s most egalitarian, according to the Organization for Economic Cooperation and Development.

Sweden Looks to Exclude Far Right From Coalition

By DAVID CROUCH, The New York Times

SEPT. 16, 2014

The left-leaning Social Democrats, with 31 percent, barely exceeded their total from the previous election four years ago, a result seen as a disaster for the party and setting off a leadership fight. The Green party, the Social Democrats’ most likely coalition partner, scored less than 7 percent, and conceded its dreams of being Sweden’s third political force dashed to the far right.

Together with the Left party of former communists, the so-called red-green bloc mustered only 43.8 percent of the vote, compared with 39.3 percent for the center-right bloc – a wafer-thin margin unforeseen in opinion polls.

But inequality in Sweden has grown, and with it a fear that the free market is failing to deliver the standard of welfare services that Swedes expect. The left attracted voters by promising a sharp break with the Reinfeldt government’s economic austerity policies, pledging to tax banks and the well-off to fund schools and infrastructure, and to create jobs.

“It is too early to predict if we could support a government with bourgeois ministers,” the Left party leader, Jonas Sjostedt said. “But we are not willing to be in a government with the Liberals,” a reference to a center-right party that won 5.4 percent of the vote. He also said, “we are too far away from the Center party to be in government with them.”

Mr. Lofven said later Monday that he would not have Left party members in his government, and in response, Mr. Sjostedt said that the Left would become an opposition party.

Sweden’s Election Deadlock Sets Stage for Budget Failure

By Johan Carlstrom and Niklas Magnusson, Bloomberg News

Sep 16, 2014 9:26 AM ET

Social Democratic leader Stefan Loefven said yesterday he won’t bring pre-election ally the Left Party into government, and instead opened the door to Reinfeldt’s former allies, the Center and Liberal parties. The two have already said they’re not interested in joining the Social Democrats.

“To close the door on the Left Party this quickly and in this rather brusque way will make it much harder for him to get his budget through,” Mikael Gilljam, a professor at Gothenburg University, said by phone.

“Stefan Loefven didn’t take the hand we extended and now we will become an opposition party,” Left Party leader Jonas Sjoestedt said after meeting Loefven yesterday. “That’s bad because it will result in a weaker government.”

While the Left won’t seek to block the parliamentary approval of any government formed by the Social Democrats and the Green Party, it will only offer support to Loefven’s budget proposal if certain demands are met, Sjoestedt said.

Swedish law was designed to make it easy for minority-governments to pass budgets by allowing the bill that gets the most votes pass. That’s provided political stability as the Social Democrats ruled without majority backing for most of the period since World War II.

That law was circumvented last year when the opposition broke with tradition and blocked parts of Reinfeldt’s budget. His party has said it won’t hesitate to do the same.

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