World News

Sweden's Greens won't back centre-right government

STOCKHOLM (Reuters) - Sweden’s centre-right government is to remain a minority administration after the opposition Green Party Monday refused to back the coalition.

Sweden's Green party leaders Peter Eriksson and Maria Wetterstrand (R) hold a news conference at the Swedish parliament in Stockholm September 20, 2010, the day after the Swedish national elections. REUTERS/Niklaus Larsson/Scanpix

Prime Minister Fredrik Reinfeldt and his centre-right allies won 173 seats in the 349-seat parliament, two short of a majority. The anti-immigrant Sweden Democrats, which entered parliament for the first time, hold the balance of power between Reinfeldt’s bloc and the centre-left opposition.

Reinfeldt has been rebuffed once already by the Greens, and a meeting Monday produced the same result.

“There is no common offer from the (government) Alliance on the possibility of starting any form of coalition negotiations,” said joint Green Party leader Peter Eriksson.

He said the Greens would not be a support party for the government, as they have been for the main centre-left party, the Social Democrats, in the past.

The Greens had doused expectations they would side with the government, but the new statements came after a recount last week of the September 19 election confirmed Reinfeldt had won one more seat, but was still short of a majority.

The government should have little trouble passing its budget bills despite its lack of majority due to rules changed in the 1990s that strengthened the hand of minority governments, a common form of rule across the Nordic region.

But other policy issues are in greater doubt, such as a centre-right plan to re-start sales of state equity assets and keep Swedish troops in Afghanistan as part of the NATO-led peacekeeping mission.

The Green Party’s other joint leader, Maria Wetterstrand, said the party was open to work with Reinfeldt on immigration issues to ensure the Sweden Democrats did not gain influence.

“These (immigration) are the questions where we see it as most important to block the Sweden Democrats using their kingmaker position,” she said.

The Sweden Democrats are the first anti-immigrant party to win seats in Sweden, which has traditionally been one of the most open countries to immigration. The party wants to reduce immigration and has an openly anti-Islam message.

Additional reporting by Patrick Lannin; Editing by Janet Lawrence