Sweden's Centre Party gives Lofven last chance before PM vote

STOCKHOLM (Reuters) - Sweden’s Centre Party said on Tuesday it would give Prime Minister Stefan Lofven’s Social Democrats a “final chance” to meet demands for reforms, before deciding whether to oppose him in a vote next week that could doom his bid for a second term.

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Lofven is trying to form a cabinet following an inconclusive election in September. He is now serving in a caretaker capacity after losing a mandatory vote of confidence that followed the election, but is trying to win support from traditional rivals the Centre Party and the Liberals to avert another election.

Parliament is likely to vote some time next week on a new prime minister.

Centre Party leader Annie Loof said the Social Democrats had not yet satisfied her party’s demands for reforms, which include lower taxes and less restrictive labor and housing laws.

“The Social Democrats’ response to the Centre Party’s political demands are unfortunately far from enough,” she wrote in the daily Aftonbladet. “Taking that into consideration, we are ready to vote no ... but we will give the Social Democrats one final chance.”

Lofven declined on Tuesday to specify what kind of concessions his party could make but called on all parties to make an effort to come to an agreement.

“We have put forward a serious offer but it will come as no surprise to anyone that our parties have different views on a number of issues,” Lofven told reporters. “Let’s sit down and negotiate.”

Parliament’s speaker granted Lofven more time to conclude talks on forming a new cabinet. Lofven had been due to conclude his negotiations by Wednesday but the deadline was extended on Tuesday until Dec. 10.

“I have been informed that several parties are starting government talks. I have therefore considered it reasonable to allow time for these negotiations,” speaker Andreas Norlen said in a statement.

Last week Loof ruled out joining a Social Democrat-led government but said her party could abstain in the vote over Lofven’s premiership if its demands were met.

Lofven’s Social Democrats have just 100 seats in the 349-member Riksdag, with the remaining seats divided among seven parties, making forming a coalition difficult.

The Centre Party controls 31 seats, which could be enough to sink Lofven if it votes against him. The Liberals, who have 20 seats, have made reform demands that are similar to those of the Centre Party as a condition for their support.

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Reporting by Johan Ahlander; editing by Niklas Pollard and Susan Fenton