Swedish government on the brink after PM Löfven loses no-confidence vote

Vote in parliament means Swedish prime minister can either call a snap election or try to form a new coalition.

Swedish government on the brink after PM Löfven loses no-confidence vote

STOCKHOLM — A clash over housing policy in Sweden led to a full-blown government crisis on Monday as a fragmented parliament withdrew its support for Social Democrat Prime Minister Stefan Löfven. 

In a vote of no confidence, 181 lawmakers voted against Löfven, with 109 in favor and 51 abstentions. It was the first time ever that a Swedish prime minister has lost a vote of no confidence. 

Löfven now has a week to decide between two options: He can call a snap election, or resign and try to build a new governing coalition without a new election. If he picks the latter and fails, opposition parties would then be given a chance to try and form a government. If they cannot do so, a snap election would be called, likely in the fall, a year ahead of the next scheduled election. 

In voting to remove Löfven, lawmakers from the Left Party — whose withdrawal of support from the prime minister on Thursday led to the vote — were joined by erstwhile rivals from the center-right Moderate Party and Christian Democrats and the increasingly influential far-right Sweden Democrats (SD). 

“We aren’t taking this step lightly, we have done everything we can to solve this situation, but now we are where we are,” Left Party leader Nooshi Dadgostar told fellow lawmakers in parliament before the vote. “We must keep our word … we must stand on the side of the tenants.”

Dadgostar ended her backing for Löfven after he moved forward with a plan to weaken controls on Swedish apartment rents — which are designed to make housing costs more manageable for tenants — in order to meet a demand from another of his allies, the Centre Party. 

The Centre Party believes easing rent controls will stimulate the building of new apartments that Sweden’s big cities need. 

That such a narrow issue could cause the government’s breakdown reflects both the significance of housing policy as a political issue in Sweden and also how the fragmentation of parliament has made it harder for lawmakers to reach consensus on key issues. 

Like many European nations, from Finland to France and from Germany to Greece, Sweden has seen the emergence of an influential far-right anti-immigration political party, in this case SD. 

As support for SD as a new power in politics has risen to around 20 percent, traditional mainstream center-left and center-right parties have found it increasingly difficult to form coalitions with a functioning majority. 

Sweden’s center-right parties long refused to discuss policy with SD and the country’s center-left parties continue to do so. 

After the last election in 2018, it took Löfven four months to form a government because he needed to cajole two new centrist allies — the Centre Party and the Liberals — to back his government in order to secure a second term in office. 

To strike that deal, Löfven promised the Centre Party he would allow rents on new-build apartments to be set by landlords rather than via collective bargaining between tenants’ associations and landlords as they are now. 

The Left Party said if Löfven ever made good on that promise it would withdraw its support from him. 

While the Left Party’s move against Löfven was driven by its desire to mark its displeasure over his direction on housing policy, the other parties that backed the no-confidence vote did so because they want to try and form a replacement government themselves. 

Ebba Busch, the leader of the Christian Democrats, said the vote had come about because Löfven had made incompatible commitments to his allies and it was now time to remove him. 

“We said we would do all we can to give Sweden a new leadership,” she said. “We said we would take every chance to remove this government, and today we make good on our word.”

SD leader Jimmie Åkesson called Löfven’s government “destructive” and said it should be thrown on the “rubbish tip of history.” 

“This has been a historically weak government which has been totally unable to solve the problems people meet in their daily lives,” Åkesson said. “This government should never have taken power.” 

At a press briefing after the vote, Löfven said he planned to use the next week to decide on his next steps and he would begin with talks with the party leaders who have backed him so far.

A decision on a way forward may not take the full week, he said. 

“We’ll have to see,” he said. “My main focus has to be on what is best for Sweden.”

Source : Politico EU More   

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Macron faces crushing defeat in local elections

French president’s centrist party loses out to mainstream left-wing and right-wing opponents.

Macron faces crushing defeat in local elections

PARIS — Mainstream left-wing and right-wing parties surged ahead in French regional elections Sunday, outpacing both Emmanuel Macron’s La République en Marche and Marine Le Pen’s National Rally.

Nationwide, left-wing parties obtained 34 percent of the vote, compared to 29 percent of the vote for the right and 19 percent for far-right National Rally. La République en Marche, sometimes allied with other centrists or conservatives, obtained around 11 percent of the vote, and in some regions Macron’s candidates failed to make it across the threshold to run in the second round, the poll said.

It indicates voters have largely chosen to support the outgoing presidents of regional councils, who are mostly from the mainstream left and the right.

Ten months out from the 2022 French presidential election, the regional elections are seen as important bellwethers for the national mood as the country emerges from over a year in and out of coronavirus lockdowns.

In the northern region of Hauts-de-France, the conservative and presidential hopeful Xavier Bertrand obtained 41,39 percent of the votes, compared to 24,37 percent for the National Rally.


For more polling data from across Europe visit Poll of Polls.

In a statement Sunday evening, Bertrand declared triumphantly that he had “broken the jaws” of the National Rally.

The candidates for La République en Marche (LREM) got just over 9 percent of the vote, under the 10 percent threshold to have a chance to run in the second round. That signals a humiliating defeat for Macron, who dispatched five ministers to run in the region in an attempt to boost results.

If confirmed by the final tally, Sunday’s results will also be a disappointment for supporters of the far right’s National Rally. Le Pen was hoping to take at least one regional council — a victory that would lend her party much-needed credibility.

The race in the southern region of Provence-Alpes-Côte d’Azur, where Le Pen was hoping for a clear win, appears tighter than expected. National Rally’s candidate, Thierry Mariani, obtained 36,38 percent of the vote. This puts the far right candidate ahead of the rightwing candidate Renaud Muselier, who is also backed by the LREM, at 31,91 percent.

The regional elections are taking place over two rounds, with candidates getting more than 10 percent of the votes facing off in a run-off round to be held June 27.

Following Sunday’s first-round vote, parties have until Tuesday morning to build alliances and register their lists of candidates for the second round.

In 2015, the left obtained 36 percent of the vote, ahead of the conservatives with 32 percent of the vote and the then-National Front at 27 percent of the vote. La République en Marche had not yet been created.

UPDATE: This article was updated with final election results.

Source : Politico EU More   

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