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Swedish outgoing premier tasked to form new government, end deadlock

Sweden's parliament speaker has given outgoing Social Democrats Prime Minister Stefan Lofven a mandate to form a new government
TT News Agency/AFP

Stockholm (AFP)

Sweden's outgoing Social Democrats Prime Minister Stefan Lofven on Monday was given a mandate to form a government a day after a rival centre-right leader failed in his first attempt.

Neither centre-left nor the centre-right bloc won a majority in a September 9 election after a far-right, anti-immigration party gained ground and left Sweden caught in political deadlock.

Both blocs have refused to make a deal with the Sweden Democrats, a party with roots in neo Nazi groups and the latest far-right movement to advance at the ballot box in Europe.

Under Sweden's political system, the speaker of the house has four chances to task a candidate to form a government that lawmakers will accept. Sweden faces new elections if the speaker fails.

Conservative Moderates party leader Ulf Kristersson, who heads the centre-right Alliance of four parties, on Sunday gave up in his bid to reach a deal, prompting the speaker to give Lofven the mandate.

Lofven, whose Social Democrats largely dominated Swedish elections for decades, was ousted in a vote of no confidence last month and has since acted as a caretaker of the government.

"The speaker of parliament has given me the task of exploring the possibility to form a government," Lofven told a news conference in Stockholm. He said he would focus on cooperation between the centre-left and centre-right blocs.

"This will require humility and compromise by all parties," said Lofven, who has two weeks to succeed.

Kristersson's failure came after two of his Alliance partners -- the leader of the Liberals and the Centre party -- refused to cooperate with the Sweden Democrats, who demand influence over policy in exchange for support.

The Sweden Democrats had so far been shunned by all mainstream parties. But internal pressure has been mounting within the Moderates and the Christian Democrats to open a dialogue.

The September election focused on the state of housing, healthcare and welfare services, in particular due to pressures from immigration following the 2015 migrant crisis.

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