Biggest Opposition Party Ready to Topple Swedish Government

Updated on
  • Plan opens rift in opposition as Center Party rejects move
  • Opposition alliance also comes out against bank payroll tax

Sweden’s largest opposition party is prepared to topple the minority government of Prime Minister Stefan Lofven before next year’s election amid opposition to tax increases including a drive to raise levies on the nation’s banks.

In a shift, the Moderate Party announced on Thursday that it will seek to put forward a joint budget with its three other Alliance opposition members already this autumn and hopes to get backing from the anti-immigration Sweden Democrats. That would give it a majority and make ruling impossible for the Social Democrat-led minority government.

Anna Kinberg Batra

Phtoographer: Julia Reinhart/NurPhoto via Getty Images

“We need to stop the damage made to jobs and growth,” Anna Kinberg Batra, the party’s leader, said at a press conference in Stockholm Thursday. “Big tax increases are now threatening jobs and growth.”

Read more on Swedish parliamentary stalemate

The party leader stressed that the proposal only has support from one of the three other Alliance parties. She’s trying to shore up support as the group is sliding in the opinion polls. A survey released on Thursday showed the party trailing the Sweden Democrats, which has gained followers over the past three years amid a record influx of immigrants.

The plan opens a rift in the Alliance, which ruled Sweden for eight years before being voted out of power in 2014. It was quickly shot down by the Center Party, the second-biggest in the opposition group. Leader Annie Loof ruled out cooperation with the Sweden Democrats or creating further turmoil ahead of the 2018 election. The Liberal Party also rejected the plan, according to Swedish Radio. The Christian Democrats back the initiative.

“We want to shift out Lofven in the next elections, but we don’t want to do it with active support from or cooperation with the Sweden Democrats,” Loof said at a press conference.

The Sweden Democrats said that while the Moderate Party’s proposal was “good news” it doesn’t necessarily mean that the party would back an Alliance budget. “We’re open to doing it, but it depends on what it includes,” Oscar Sjostedt, an economic spokesman for the party, told reporters.

Read more on the Sweden Democrats

While the Moderates don’t want to form a government with the Sweden Democrats, it’s now prepared to use the party’s votes to push through Alliance policies. It will seek to stop a planned airline tax and other levies that threaten jobs and growth, according to Kinberg Batra. The Moderates also want further measures to boost integration of immigrants and increase the police force. 

The Alliance also on Thursday came out against the proposal for a new 15 percent tax on bank payrolls, made in a government-initiated review in November. Sweden’s banks have warned the tax would put a fifth of the country’s financial-industry jobs at risk.

“It’s completely unreasonable that hundreds of thousands of companies should be faced with hassle and increased costs,” Emil Kallstrom, economic-policy spokesman for the Center Party, said in an e-mailed statement.

While the opposition is attacking the government’s policies, the Swedish economy has been booming and deficits have narrowed. Unemployment has slid to below 7 percent from above 8 percent four years ago.

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