February 6, 2019 / 4:00 PM / 3 months ago

Swedish Liberal leader to step down, casts shadow over govt's stability

FILE PHOTO: Sweden's Liberal Party leader Jan Bjorklund looks on during the election campaign in Stockholm, Sweden September 8, 2018. REUTERS/Ints Kalnins/File Photo

STOCKHOLM (Reuters) - The leader of Sweden’s Liberals will step down in November, he said on Wednesday, less than a month after backing Social Democrat leader Stefan Lofven as prime minister in a deal that split his own party.

Jan Bjorklund said he would not stand for re-election when his mandate ended, but that the deal to support Lofven was not at risk.

“The party stands behind the January Agreement,” Bjorklund told reporters. “There is criticism from some people, but there is broad support in the party.”

The Liberals’ executive committee voted to abandon the centre-right Alliance 17-8 the party had been a member of to back the deal in support of Lofven.

He was voted in for a second term as premier on Jan 18, more than four months after a national election that left parliament deadlocked.

Lofven does not need the Liberals’ 20 votes to govern, but if they were to pull out of the deal, the Centre party - with 31 lawmakers - might also reconsider its position.

“What could happen is that the Centre party would not want to be the only centre-right party with Stefan Lofven and would also pull out and the agreement would capsize,” Magnus Hagevi, political scientist at Linneaus University, said. “That’s the risk.”

Reporting by Simon Johnson; editing by John Stonestreet

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