Moderate leader Kristersson confirmed as Swedish PM, challenges ahead

Posted on October 17, 2022Comments Off on Moderate leader Kristersson confirmed as Swedish PM, challenges ahead

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STOCKHOLM (Reuters) -Sweden’s parliament confirmed Moderate Party leader Ulf Kristersson as prime minister on Monday as head of a three-party minority coalition with support from the anti-immigration Sweden Democrats.

The Moderate, Christian Democrat and Liberal party coalition plans to cut taxes, cap benefits, tighten immigration rules and give police more powers as part of a policy deal with the Sweden Democrats, who are now the biggest party on the right after September’s election.

Not only will Kristersson be dependent on the Sweden Democrats, a party with roots in the white supremacist fringe, his government faces an economic downturn, war in Ukraine and a cost-of-living crisis that has seen prices for food and electricity soar.

Turkey could still block Sweden’s application to join NATO.

“Sweden is a country that is experiencing several parallel crises at the same time,” Kristersson told reporters. “I don’t think anyone thinks that the challenges that face the new government are easy.”

In the election on Sept. 11, the right-wing bloc secured a slim majority, winning 176 seats in the 349-member parliament.

The Sweden Democrats won 20.5% of the vote in September, against 19.1% for the Moderates, but Sweden Democrat leader Jimmie Akesson could not get enough support to head a government.

His party, however, has had a big impact on the new government’s policies, marking a watershed in Swedish politics, long seen as synonymous with liberal values and openness.

The coalition’s policies are “authoritarian, conservative and nationalistic,” Green Party leader Per Bolund said.

Until 2018, no party would have anything to do with the Sweden Democrats. But their message that decades of over-generous immigration policies are behind a surge in shooting and gang crime has struck a chord with voters.

Successive governments have toughened immigration rules over the last decade, but the new coalition will move even further to the right.

Asylum status will be temporary and the government plans to make it harder for new immigrants to get benefits. There will also be a review of inducements for voluntary repatriation “with a particular focus on those who have not integrated”.

Sweden Democrat leader said the new government’s tenure would mark a “paradigm shift” in immigration policy characterised by “order, reason and common sense”.

On crime, police will be able to take tougher measures against criminal gangs and sentences for gang crimes will be longer.

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