Sweden's center-left PM loses confidence vote

Sweden's prime minister lost a vote of confidence in parliament on Tuesday after an election this month stripped him of his majority.

Stefan Lofven, the leader of the Social Democratic Party who has been prime minister for four years, will continue in a caretaker role until a new Swedish government can be formed that has the command of the Riksdagen, the national parliament.

Lawmakers voted 204-142 against Lofven. Three lawmakers were absent, so did not vote. The vote was mandatory after the Sept. 9 general election delivered a hung parliament.

Although Lofven remains optimistic that he may be eventually able to form a government, the vote means that Sweden faces weeks of political uncertainty. Both main political blocs in the parliament have refused to cooperate with the anti-immigrant Sweden Democrats party, which made great strides in the election.

Neither the left-leaning bloc led by the Social Democrats nor the Moderates-led center-right opposition managed to secure a majority in the 349-seat parliament.

In the election, the Social Democrats got 28.3 percent of the vote while the Moderate Party received 19.8 percent and the Sweden Democrats 17.5 percent. The center-left and center-right blocs control respectively 144 and 143 seats while the Sweden Democrats have 62 lawmakers in the assembly.

Andreas Norlen, a member of the center-right Moderates who was elected Monday as speaker, is charged with trying to find someone in parliament who may be able to command a majority and to form a government. He alone decides which of the party leaders can begin these talks.

Lofven remained optimistic he could form a governing coalition but stopped short of saying with whom.

"I am available for talks," Lofven said after the vote Tuesday.

Lofven ruled out having any contacts with the Sweden Democrats, saying "time after time, their connections to racist and Nazi organizations have been exposed."

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This story corrects that three lawmakers were absent from the vote, not that they abstained from the vote.

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Jan M. Olsen in Copenhagen contributed to this report.