October 29, 2018 / 9:54 AM / a month ago

Sweden closer to election as Lofven drops bid to form government

STOCKHOLM (Reuters) - The leader of Sweden’s Social Democrats, Stefan Lofven, on Monday abandoned efforts to form a government, extending a political deadlock that has gripped the country since an inconclusive national election seven weeks ago.

Sweden's Prime Minister Stefan Lofven arrives at an European Union leaders summit in Brussels, Belgium October 17, 2018. REUTERS/Yves Herman

The failed attempt brought the prospect of a snap election closer, though the speaker of parliament said he would try to avoid that at all costs.

The Sept. 9 vote gave the anti-immigrant Sweden Democrats hold the balance of power, but neither Lofven’s center-left bloc nor the center-right group of parties has been willing to give them a say in policy due to their white supremacist roots.

“In light of the responses I have had so far ... the possibility does not exist for me to build a government that can be accepted by parliament,” Lofven told reporters.

The center-right Alliance bloc’s leader, Ulf Kristersson, has already tried and failed to form a government.

Speaker Andreas Norlen, who on Monday held talks with all the party leaders, said he would not, at least for now, ask anyone else to try to form a government.

Instead, he would on Tuesday take on a more active role in trying to mediate a way to forming a viable coalition. He would propose a prime minister to parliament at least once during the autumn, in order if possible to avoid another election.

“A snap election would be a big defeat for the Swedish political system,” he told reporters.

A caretaker administration under Lofven has run Sweden since last month’s ballot.

The delay in forming a permanent government could further undermine faith in mainstream parties. Sweden Democrats leader Jimmie Akesson said a new vote could boost support for his party.

Both Lofven and Kristersson said they still hope to be prime minister, but neither offered a way to end the stalemate.

“I do not see any indication that anyone has changed their minds about anything at all,” Kristersson told reporters after meeting speaker Norlen.

Graphic - Swedish election scenarios: tmsnrt.rs/2p45tJh

Reporting by Johan Sennero; editing by John Stonestreet

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