Entrenched positions on future budget

None of the centre-right Allliance parties stretch out a hand to help a government led by the Social Democrat Stefan Löfven survive the autumn. And the Sweden Democrat leader Jimmie Åkesson says he is prepared to vote against Löfven's first budget.

The positions remain entrenched after a day when all the leader of the parties in parliament have met with the Speaker, Per Westerberg, who has been sounding out the support for a future government.

First in to meet Westerberg was Löfven, who is expected to be given the task to form a government.

"I've told the Speaker I'm ready to look into the potential of building a government," said Löfven, adding that he did not take up the discussion of which parties he could imagine governing with or cooperating with.

According to the news agency TT, everything point to a minority government made up of the Social Democrats and the Green Party. But Löfven continues to hope for support from the other side of the political divide, ie from some of the four centre-right parties.

"Naturally, I'm aware of the difficult parliamentary situation, which puts us all in a position to see to it that we do our utmost and it's also why I'm open to cooperating in different forms," said Löfven after his meeting with the Speaker.

The first hurdle for Löfvens government is the vote on him as a prime minister. The leader of the Left Party said he would not vote in favour of a government his party is not part of, but that he will not vote against Löfven to become prime minister.

The Alliance parties are also prepared to let him past, if he can show that he can get his budget through parliament in December. Exactly how he is going to show that is not clear.

"That is up to Stefan Löfven," said Anna Kinberg Batra the Moderate Party's group leader in parliament. She replaced her party leader Fredrik Reinfeldt in the talks with the Speaker, since Reinfeldt is resigning in the spring.

The big hurdle, therefore, is designing a budget that can get through parliament. The Left Party has been clear that it will only vote in favour of a Löfven budget, if it includes their key policy area, to only allow profits in the welfare sector if they are reinvested again. And that is just one of the tricky areas where the Social Democrats, the Greens and the Left party would have to agree.

On Wednesday evening, the Left Party leader jonas Sjöstedt confirmed to Swedish Television news that he has been contacted by the Social Democrats to start talks on the budget, and that he has accepted.

But the problem for Löfven is that even if the three parties can agree on a budget, this is not enough. The four Alliance parties confirmed on Wednesday that they will produce a joint budget proposal. This would leave the Sweden Democrats with the power to decide which budget shall go through parliament.

"We might feel forced to choose the budget proposal that is the least damaging to Sweden, instead of just abstaining from voting," Sweden Democrat leader Jimmie Åkesson said after his meeting with the Speaker.

The tradition in the Swedish parliament is otherwise that a party or a coalition will only vote for their own budget proposal, and if that proposal falls, they will abstain from voting. But Åkesson says his party will make a "political valuation" of the two alternatives.

"It could be that Stefan Löfven's budget proposal includes a cut of the pensioners' tax, improvement of the unemployment benefit, things that we were in favour of in the election. But it could also be that the centre-right budget includes other things that we were in favour of in the election," Åkesson told reporters.

But if a Löfven government cant get a budget through parliament, this would mean a government crisis, and possibly a new election. "I don't think anyone would want that," said Åkesson.

His comments caused the leader of the Social Democrat group in parliament, Mikael Damberg, to react. "I really hope that more parties now realise that we need more co-operation in order to avoid that Jimmie Åkesson plays games with Swedish politics."

The Social Democrats want co-operation with some of the Alliance parties, and has mentioned the Centre Party and the Liberal party. But both of them reject any organised co-operation.

"Löfven's attempt to stretch out a hand is comical," said Annie Lööf of the Centre Party, who noted that the Social Democrats is against and want to abolish policies that the Centre party has been very much in favour of, such as the reduced pay-roll tax for young people and the lower sales tax on restaurant food.