Budget Difficulties Grow for Sweden's Minority Government

  • Sweden Democrats trying to stoke `chaos,' Liberals say
  • SD call for no confidence vote against finance minister

Sweden’s minority Social Democratic-led government needs to rely on opposition leaders enforcing party discipline to pass its budget in November after the Sweden Democrats vowed to reject the plan.

The anti-immigration party called for a no confidence vote in the finance minister and said the government is unprepared to handle the record inflows of refugees. It vowed to back the budget of the biggest opposition party, the Moderates, when spending plans are debated next month. That means that if enough members of parliament of the other three opposition Alliance parties defy their party leadership and vote with the Moderates, the government’s budget could fail.

Sweden risks a repeat of last year, when the upstart Sweden Democrats threw their support behind the opposition’s budget. That prompted Prime Minister Stefan Loefven to call a snap election, which was later canceled after a now-defunct deal was reached to achieve stability. To keep the peace, leaders for the Alliance opposition bloc have said they won’t unite around one proposal to challenge the government. 

The Sweden Democrats’ “goal is to bring chaos,” Jan Bjoerklund, head of the Liberal Party, told Bloomberg at parliament on Wednesday. While the opposition Liberals plan to vote for their own budget, Bjoerklund acknowledged that each party member can “decide for themselves.”

The turmoil comes after the opposition last week decided to exit a deal crafted in December designed to allow the Social Democratic-led government pass its budgets. Discontent had been brewing among opposition lawmakers that the agreement had given the government too much leeway to set policy after it announced tax increases, higher welfare spending and increased outlays on jobs programs and education.

The Christian Democrats was the first party to exit the deal, and their party leader Ebba Busch Thor on Wednesday told TT news agency that the opposition’s first possibility for a joint budget may be in spring. The Christian Democrats will vote for their own budget in November, Busch Thor said.

The Alliance parties will later present what next steps they plan to take and can put forward a joint economic policy 2018 at the latest, Moderate Party Leader Anna Kinberg Batra told reporters in parliament. Her party won’t support the Sweden Democrats’ no confidence vote since she’s not prepared to rule with their support, Kinberg Batra said.

Sweden Democrats leader Jimmie Aakesson said hopes that the other opposition parties will join them in voting for the Moderates’ budget.

”How will they explain to their voters why they prefer Stefan Loefven’s socialist budget over the Moderates’?” Jimmie Aakesson said to reporters.

The government, which also includes the Greens and their partner the Left Party together hold 159 seats in parliament, while the Sweden Democrats and the Alliance together hold 190 seats. The three smaller opposition parties in the Alliance hold 57 seats, and if only 27 break party ranks the Moderates’ budget could win.

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