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Swedish coalition shuns far-right group

Associated Press / September 21, 2010

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STOCKHOLM — Sweden’s prime minister sought help from the opposition Greens yesterday after an Islam-bashing far-right group spoiled his center-right government’s control of Parliament, yet Green politicians were wary of joining his bloc.

Prime Minister Fredrik Reinfeldt’s coalition won Sunday’s election but lost its majority in the 349-seat legislature, weakening its ability to push through crucial legislation.

The Sweden Democrats, a small nationalist party, entered Parliament for the first time, winning 20 seats to hold the balance of power between the 172 seats captured by the four-party center-right bloc and the 154 seats won by the three-party leftist opposition, according to preliminary returns.

Reinfeldt has primarily reached out to the Green Party because he has vowed not to govern with the Sweden Democrats, who demand sharp cuts in immigration and have called Islam Sweden’s greatest foreign threat since World War II.

Large waves of immigration from the Balkans, Iraq, and Iran have changed the demography of the once-homogenous Scandinavian country, and one in seven residents is now foreign-born.

The Sweden Democrats say immigration has become an economic burden that drains the welfare system, but polls before Sunday’s vote showed that Swedish voters were more concerned about unemployment and the environment than they were about immigration.

The far-right group’s election breakthrough has sullied Sweden’s self-image as a bastion of tolerance, inoculated against the backlash on immigration seen elsewhere in Europe.

Analysts said talks across the political divide were necessary for Reinfeldt to continue ruling with a minority government.

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