Swedish center-right Alliance leader abandons attempt to form government for now

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STOCKHOLM (Reuters) - The leader of Sweden’s Moderate Party, Ulf Kristersson, said on Sunday he had been unable to get enough support for a center-right coalition government, putting the task of finding a candidate for prime minister back in the hands of parliament’s speaker.

Sweden has been in a state of political deadlock since a Sept. 9 election when neither the Alliance bloc - headed by Kristersson - nor a grouping of center-left parties won enough votes for a majority and both ruled out a deal with the anti-immigration Sweden Democrats, who hold the balance of power.

Kristersson said on Friday he was prepared to try to form a minority government without all the parties in the four-party Alliance bloc, but the Liberal and Centre parties of his bloc scuppered the plan by refusing to back it.

“I have done what I can, for now,” Kristersson said on Sunday as he told the speaker he was giving up his attempts to form a government for the moment.

The speaker has four attempts to find a prime minister acceptable to parliament or there will be another election. The speaker said on Sunday he would talk to the parties on Monday and hand someone else the task of forming the government.

The baton is likely to pass next to Stefan Lofven, the leader of the Social Democrats and current caretaker prime minister. He lost a no-confidence vote in Parliament on Sept. 25.

But if other candidates fail Kristersson can be handed a second chance.

“I’m disappointed that (the Alliance) is now missing an opportunity to form a new government with a new policy... I’m still ready to be prime minister and to lead an Alliance government,” Kristersson said.

Reporting by Johan Sennero and Esha Vaish; Editing by Johan Ahlander/Keith Weir