Sweden's vote leaders seek to form government

Staff Writer
Columbus CEO

STOCKHOLM (AP) — Sweden's Social Democrat-led bloc officially begins the struggle to form a government on Monday, a day after it ousted the center-right ruling coalition in parliamentary elections but fell short of a majority.

After eight years in power, conservative Prime Minister Fredrik Reinfeldt conceded defeat after his bloc lost support with 142 seats in the 349-seat Parliament while the opposition Social Democrat-led Red-Green won 158 seats.

The election saw a surge in support for the anti-immigration Sweden Democrats party which more than doubled its seats to 49 seats, from the previous election in 2010. However, it is unlikely to attain its goal of sharply reducing immigration because all other parties favor a liberal asylum policy.

After declaring victory, Social Democratic leader Stefan Lofven said he would accept the challenge of forming a new government, a task expected to be officially handed to him by the Speaker of Parliament later Monday.

Lofven said would begin by talking to the environmentalist Green Party and was willing "to cooperate with other democratic parties that want to take responsibility for Sweden," possibly including the former Communist Left Party.

Lofven has ruled out working with the Sweden Democrats, but said that Sweden is "too small for conflicts."

The election result marks the end of an era of tax cuts and pro-market policies under Reinfeldt, who said he would also resign as leader of the conservative party. Many Swedes worried that his tax cuts have undermined the country's famed welfare system.

The Sweden Democrats, a once radical far-right party that entered Parliament four years ago with 5.7 percent support, surged to 13 percent in the weekend vote. "We are now Sweden's third-biggest party," leader Jimmie Akesson told jubilant supporters.

Government formation talks were expected to last days as the Lofven tries to form a new majority coalition.


AP video journalist Jona Kallgren contributed to this report.