April 25, 2016 / 11:17 AM / 2 years ago

Swedish Greens to hold leadership vote, could weaken coalition

STOCKHOLM (Reuters) - Sweden’s Green Party will decide at its annual congress in mid-May whether to replace its leadership, threatening to further weaken the fragile minority coalition government.

Co-leaders Asa Romson — the deputy Prime Minister — and Gustav Fridolin have been criticized over their handling of a crisis which led to the resignation of Sweden’s Green Party housing minister after his comments about Israel.

Education Minister Gustav Fridolin said he and Romson wanted to continue to head the party as part of the ruling coalition with the Social Democrats.

“We are not going to resign,” Fridolin told reporters. The annual congress will be held on May 13-15.

“To be able to do the job, we need a new, strong mandate to lead the party forward,” Fridolin said.

The coalition of the Social Democrats and Greens has been struggling since it took power in 2014. A surge in support for the far-right Sweden Democrats has overturned decades of stable politics and left parliament gridlocked.

Record numbers of asylum seekers have forced a U-turn in immigration policies, angering many Greens and deepening divisions within the coalition.

Last week, Housing Minister Mehmet Kaplan quit over comments about Israel and after media reported he had in the past attended a dinner at which a representative of an ultra-nationalist Turkish organization was present.

The two coalition partners are also at odds over what to do with coal mines and power stations owned by state-controlled Vattenfall. Vattenfall has agreed a deal to sell them, the Greens want them phased out.

In an open letter to supporters last week Romson and Fridolin said they understood that many in the Green Party were questioning the party’s fundamental values.

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

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