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Sweden's speaker of parliament has four attempts to get lawmakers to agree to a new prime minister, or at least convince enough MPs to abstain and not actively vote against the candidate. If they fail to agree, a new election shall be held within three months. So far, parliament has always approved the first proposal.
After Ulf Kristersson, the leader of the Moderate Party, announced he had not managed to form a new coalition, the torch was handed over to Stefan Löfven, the leader of the Social Democrats.
Here are some of the future possible scenarios.
Moderates + Christian Democrats + Sweden Democrats
A majority coalition of the largest centre-right party, the Moderates, their colleagues in the smaller Christian Democrat Party and the far-right Sweden Democrats would together claim 154 seats in parliament versus the centre-left's 144. However, all parties have said they would not support such a coalition, so although it would be large enough to have a majority, it is unlikely it would ever make it past the idea stage.
Moderates + Christian Democrats
A lighter version of the above could be a minority government with the support of the Sweden Democrats in parliament. The Sweden Democrats would however likely ask for something in return for their support, and the more they ask for the less likely is the more progressive branch of the centre-right – the Centre Party and the Liberals who together have 51 seats – to allow such a coalition government to be voted through.
The idea would be that Moderate leader Ulf Kristersson would be able to seek support from individual parties on various issues if he is not tied to fellow centre-right parties. However, such a plan would need the other centre-right parties and the Sweden Democrats to support his budget proposal later this autumn.
Cross-bloc Social Democrat-led coalition
The favoured option of Sweden's largest party – the Social Democrats – would be a coalition with their current partners the Green Party, and the Centre and Liberal Parties. But the latter two would not easily be tempted away from their current centre-right alliance. This option would not have a majority in parliament, but would still manage to get their budget through because the remaining parties (Sweden Democrats, Moderates, Christian Democrats and Left) would not manage to unite around a common counter-budget.
A Social Democrat-led government could work together in parliament with individual parties on various issues. However, it is highly unlikely other parties would be willing to abandon their current positions to such a degree to let this option through.
Social Democrats + Green Party (+ Left Party)
A similar constellation to the government of the past four year would have more seats than the centre-right, but would be defeated whenever the centre-right and far-right join forces to vote against them.
Social Democrats + Moderates
A grand coalition of the two arch rivals in the Swedish parliament would together have 170 seats – almost enough for a majority. But it would require them to reconcile a number of major policy differences, and agree on who would get to become prime minister. Not an easy sell.
Centre Party + Liberals
A centre-liberal option would have a weak minority in parliament (with only 51 seats), but may be seen by both the Moderates and the Social Democrats as the tolerable "least worst" option. Because of Sweden's system of negative parliamentarism, a prime ministerial candidate does not need to have the support of a majority, they only need to show that they do not have a majority of parliament against them.
As political scientist Nicholas Aylott wrote in an article for The Local before the election: "Quite possibly, then, Sweden will emerge with a rather extreme form of minority government – one whose only party has attained just a quarter or even a tenth of the seats in parliament. That is a recipe for slow, painstaking legislative negotiations on everything. It might not be what Sweden really needs. But it is not a recipe for chaos. In parliamentary politics, especially in Sweden, it may be better to be tolerated than liked."