December 9, 2014 / 8:34 AM / 4 years ago

Swedish opposition offers government talks to help block far-right

STOCKHOLM (Reuters) - Sweden’s center-right opposition on Tuesday offered to strike a deal with the government on voting procedures in parliament to allow minority governments to rule and prevent the anti-immigration Sweden Democrats from effectively holding a veto.

A general view of the Swedish Parliaament during the debate about the government's budget proposal in Stockholm December 3, 2014. REUTERS/Pontus Lundahl/TT News Agency

Sweden was plunged into political chaos last week when the Sweden Democrats - who hold the balance of power - blocked the minority government’s budget, forcing Prime Minister Stefan Lofven to call a snap election.

The party also threatened to veto finance bills put forward by any minority government unless they reversed Sweden’s generous immigration policies.

“We are therefore ready to make a deal across the political divide - before the election - to make it possible for such a (minority) government to function,” the leaders of the four mainstream center-right parties wrote in an article in daily Dagens Nyheter.

The Moderates, Center, Christian Democrat and Liberal parties said they would continue to follow the principle that biggest bloc should form a government and were ready to talk about a deal on budget procedure to block any threatened veto by the Sweden Democrats.

But while the Alliance offered a deal to ease the path for minority governments, they ruled out a grand coalition of left and right as a solution to the parliamentary deadlock.

“To start with, the differences between the blocs are considerable,” the leaders said.

“But it is also the case that in the countries that have chosen that option, the conditions for the growth of extremist parties has been strengthened.”

The Sweden Democrats have enjoyed a rapid rise in popularity, moving from a tiny party on the far-right extreme in the mid-1990s to their first seats in parliament in 2010.

Echoing successes for the far-right across Europe in recent years, the party doubled its vote in September’s election, gathering 13 percent support and 49 seats in parliament.

The party is now Sweden’s third largest, behind the Social Democrats and Moderates.

Opinion polls show the two main blocs neck and neck ahead of the March vote with the Sweden Democrats, if anything, increasing their backing.

Reporting by Simon Johnson; Editing by Daniel Dickson and Alistair Scrutton

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