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Swedish parliament rejects Lofven in PM vote as deadlock lingers

FILE PHOTO: Sweden's Prime Minister Stefan Lofven arrives at an European Union leaders summit in Brussels, Belgium October 17, 2018. REUTERS/Piroschka van de Wouw/File Photo

STOCKHOLM (Reuters) - Sweden’s parliament voted as expected on Friday against giving Social Democrat Stefan Lofven’s center-left coalition a second term in office, bringing a fresh election closer after three months of political deadlock.

September’s vote produced a hung parliament and the center-left and center-right blocs have been unable to reach a deal on a new government that would keep the anti-immigration Sweden Democrats from being able to have a say in policy.

Parliament voted 200 to 116 against giving Lofven, currently caretaker prime minister, a new term. It had already voted once for Lofven’s ouster in a mandatory vote in September, but has also rejected center-right leader Ulf Kristersson as prime minister, leaving the way forward unclear.

“We are heading toward a new election at high speed,” Ulf Kristersson, leader of the Moderate Party, said just before the vote.

Kristersson was rejected by parliament in a vote last month in which the Centre and Liberal parties - nominally part of his four-party center-right Alliance bloc - refused to back him.

Centre leader Annie Loof said this week she remained determined to keep the Sweden Democrats, a populist party with roots in the white supremacist fringe, from having an influence on policy, which could happen were a minority Alliance government to take power.

Parliament can reject two more candidates for prime minister before a new election must be called.

GRAPHIC - Election scenarios:

Reporting by Johan Ahlander and Johan Sennero; writing by Simon Johnson; Editing by Niklas Pollard