Sweden parties agree to form govt with far-right backing

AFP , Friday 14 Oct 2022

Three Swedish right-wing parties will build a minority government with the unprecedented backing of the far-right Sweden Democrats, the parties said Friday, unveiling plans for new nuclear reactors and a crime and immigration crackdown.

Stockholm, Sweden
Leader of the Christian Democrats Ebba Busch (2nd R) and Leader of the Sweden Democrats Jimmie Akesson (3rd L) leaves after a press conference on the formation of a coalition government at the Parliament press office in Stockholm, Sweden on October 14, 2022. AFP


The incoming government will be made up of the conservative Moderates, Christian Democrats and Liberals, with the far-right Sweden Democrats remaining outside the coalition but providing key support in parliament.

The four presented a 62-page roadmap Friday for their cooperation, outlining measures to address what they defined as the biggest challenges facing Sweden: rising crime, immigration, energy, healthcare, education, the economy and the climate.

"All this in what is possibly the most dangerous time for Sweden since World War II," Moderates leader Ulf Kristesson told reporters in a reference to the war raging in Ukraine which prompted Sweden's historic NATO membership application.

Parliament will vote on Kristersson as the new prime minister on Monday and the future government is expected to take office on Tuesday, just over a month after the right-wing won a narrow victory in a general election that ousted the Social Democrats after eight years in power.

The anti-immigration and nationalist Sweden Democrats once shunned as pariahs on Sweden's political scene were the big winners of the September 11 vote.

They emerged as the country's second-largest party with a record 20.5 percent of votes, behind outgoing prime minister Magdalena Andersson's Social Democrats, which have dominated Swedish politics since the 1930s.

Concessions to far-right

While far-right leader Jimmie Akesson said he "would have preferred to sit in government", he stressed that the most important thing was that his party has influence over policy and that "the change of government represents a paradigm shift".

"We are going to deliver policy, especially in those areas our voters think are extra important, and crime policy is one such area," he told reporters.

While the quartet presented a united front on Friday, they have traditionally been divided on a number of key policy areas and major concessions were made in the agreement, primarily to meet the far-right's demands.

As Sweden struggles to contain soaring gang shootings, the roadmap calls for body searches in some disadvantaged areas, harsher sentences for repeat offenders, double sentences for certain crimes and anonymous witnesses. These were all major concessions by the small Liberal party.

It also calls for major cuts to generous refugee policies in Sweden, a country of 10.5 million that has welcomed around half a million asylum seekers in the past decade.

The incoming government said it aims to reduce the number of quota refugees from 6,400 last year to 900 per year during its four-year mandate, and introduce incentives to encourage immigrants to return home.

It will also probe the possibility of keeping asylum seekers in transit centres during their application process, as well as ditch Sweden's development aid target of one percent of GDP and introduce a national ban on begging.

In another measure bearing the stamp of the far-right, the parties also agreed to examine the possibility of "expelling foreigners for misconduct".

"Anyone in Sweden enjoying Swedish hospitality has an obligation to respect fundamental Swedish values and not disrespect the local population by their actions", the document said.

It gave failure to follow regulations or having ties to criminal organisations as an example of grounds for removal.

The four parties also agreed to not reduce unemployment benefits, a major concession to the far-right by the Moderates.

More nuclear

Meanwhile, the future government also announced plans to build new nuclear reactors to meet the country's rising electricity needs.

"The goal going forward is electrification and the way there is nuclear power," the leader of the Christian Democrats Ebba Busch told reporters.

Sweden has in recent years shut down six of its 12 reactors and the remaining ones, at three nuclear power plants, generate about 30 percent of the electricity used in the country today.

But it has struggled to find viable alternative energy sources to replace nuclear power, with renewable energy not yet sufficient to fully meet its needs.

The outgoing Social Democratic government, in power for the past eight years, has traditionally been opposed to the construction of new reactors but acknowledged earlier this year that nuclear energy would be crucial for the foreseeable future.

In June, Swedish energy group Vattenfall said it was examining the possibility of building at least two small modular nuclear reactors.

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