The Swedish parliament on Monday elected Ulf Kristersson — the conservative Moderate Party leader — as prime minister at the head of a minority coalition that is being supported by a once-radical far-right party.
Kristersson, 59, was elected by a vote of 176 to 173 and will present his government on Tuesday. His three-party coalition does not have a majority, but in Sweden, prime ministers can govern as long as there is no parliamentary majority against them.
After a month of talks with the anti-immigration populist Sweden Democrats, Kristersson presented an agreement that gave them an unprecedented position of influence in Swedish politics. They took over 20% of the vote at the Sept. 11 election.
Kristersson’s center-right coalition government is made up of his party, the Liberals and the Christian Democrats, but he has said it will remain in “close collaboration” with the Sweden Democrats. He depends on the support of the Sweden Democrats to secure a majority in Parliament, enabling them to influence government policy from the sidelines.
The Sweden Democrats were founded in the 1980s by far-right extremists. They toned down their rhetoric and expelled openly racist members under Jimmie Akesson, who took over the party in 2005.
Akesson, who doesn’t consider his party far-right, said he would have preferred Cabinet seats for the Sweden Democrats, but he supported the deal that would give his party influence over government policy, including on immigration and criminal justice.
Since the election, the populist party has landed the chairmanships of four parliamentary committees, giving it the ability to wield more influence in mainstream Swedish politics.
Kristersson will be replacing Magdalena Andersson, who heads Sweden’s largest party, the Social Democrats, which now are in opposition. He backs Sweden’s historic bid to join NATO following Russia’s invasion of Ukraine in February.
“It feels great, I am grateful,” Kristersson told a press conference. “ I am happy about the trust that I have received from the Riksdag. I am also humbled by the tasks that lie ahead of us.”
The center-left opposition heavily criticized the new governing coalition, with Lena Hallgren of the Social Democrats, calling it “a strange construction.”
Many said it represented a paradigm shift in Sweden and would damage its image in the world as an egalitarian and tolerant nation. Nooshi Dadgostar, the leader of the former communist Left Party, said her parents who fled from Iran could never have imagined that Sweden would embark on an authoritarian path.
“What is happening now in Sweden is frightening,” she told Parliament.