By Johan Ahlander and Simon Johnson
STOCKHOLM -Sweden’s caretaker Prime Minister Stefan Lofven was handed the task of forming a new government on Thursday after the country’s right-wing opposition leader said he had failed to secure enough parliamentary votes to become premier himself.
Social Democrat Lofven’s fragile centre-left minority government collapsed this month after the Left Party withdrew its support over plans to ease some rent controls on housing, ushering in a no-confidence vote in parliament.
Parliamentary Speaker Andreas Norlen invited him to form a new administration hours after opposition leader Ulf Kristersson abandoned his own attempt. It had become clear that lawmakers would not support his premiership, despite last-ditch efforts to win over centrists with spending pledges.
“I have this morning spoken on the phone with Prime Minister Stefan Lofven and given him the task of sounding out the possibilities for a new government,” Norlen told a news conference.
Lofven will report back to the speaker on Monday at the latest and could face a vote in parliament days later, Norlen added.
“My answer remains that the Social Democrats and I are ready to shoulder the responsibility of together with other constructive forces leading the country forward,” the caretaker prime minister said on social media.
The collapse of the government has reignited turmoil seen in the wake of the 2018 election, where gains by the anti-immigration Sweden Democrats redrew the political landscape, leaving Lofven needing months to hammer out a workable, if precarious, coalition.
The government had wanted to ease Sweden’s rigid system for rent control, a form of collective bargaining, to boost the building of new apartments. The Left party claimed it would lead to increased rent for Sweden’s 3 million tenants.
After backing away from those plans, Lofven may have sufficient backing for his premiership to be approved by parliament, but it would still likely be inadequate to assure passage of his budgets unless some form of accord between a disparate set of parties is once again forged.
To take office, he must avoid an absolute majority of deputies voting against his candidacy.
It will be the first vote initiated by the speaker to form a new government – if four such attempts fail, snap elections are automatically triggered.