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Who will be Sweden’s next prime minister? Rivals make their final pitch

Incumbent prime minister Stefan Löfven of the centre-left Social Democrats and Ulf Kristersson of th..

Incumbent prime minister Stefan Löfven of the centre-left Social Democrats and Ulf Kristersson of the conservative Moderates presented their final reports to the speaker of parliament today, updating him on their progress in government negotiations.

Speaker Andreas Norlén first met Löfven at 10am in his office in parliament, before speaking to Kristersson half an hour later, following weeks of secret talks between party leaders.

Löfven was reticent in a press conference following his meeting, saying: "Discussions are still ongoing."

He described the talks as "constructive" and said that the focus was on ensuring Sweden had "a viable government as soon as possible". But the Social Democrat leader said he could not give any comment on how likely it was that he would be the one to form that government.

Kristersson's comments were similar.

"I can actually only confirm that over the weekend intensive discussions have taken place between the parties of the Alliance, in a good atmosphere. And they are continuing," the Moderate leader said, referring to the Christian Democrats, Centre and Liberal parties, which together with Kristersson's party make up the Alliance.

The Centre and Liberal parties voted against a government led by Kristersson in an earlier vote, and the two have ended up in a king-maker role since the September 9th election left the country divided. It is likely that both Löfven and Kristersson have focussed on trying to attract their support in recent weeks.

To achieve this, Löfven will have had to move right on issues such as workers' rights and market liberalism, without losing the votes of the Left Party to his left. Kristersson will have had to promise his allies that his government would not be dependent on the Sweden Democrats – without losing the support of the Sweden Democrats.

Löfven is the leader of the biggest centre-left party, and Kristersson of the biggest centre-right party. Photo: Anders Wiklund/TT

Norlén has already named January 16th as the date when the next prime ministerial candidate will face a parliamentary vote. Two such votes have already been held, with both Löfven and Kristersson failing to gain enough support from parliament.

By far the most likely scenario is that one of these two would be proposed for the role a second time. Norlén is expected to name his candidate on Monday.

A prime ministerial candidate does not need a majority of parliament to vote in their favour in order to be accepted, but if a majority vote against, the proposal will fail. This system, called 'negative parliamentarism', allows minority governments to rule thanks to abstentions or 'passive support'.

If this third vote is unsuccessful, a fourth vote would happen on January 23rd, Norlén has said. If one of these votes is successful, the new prime minister will officially take on the role and name their cabinet within a matter of days.

But if neither vote is successful, Sweden will need to hold a second election, which must then happen no more than three months after the fourth and final vote. Swedish elections are always held on Sundays, so the latest date this could happen would be April 21st.

This means that Sweden is in wholly untested waters. Previously, parliament has always accepted the first proposed prime minister.

To catch up with everything that has happened since the election, The Local's timeline offers a handy overview. And if you have any questions about the process, please log in to comment below.

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China deploys anti-ship missiles in the desert making them harder to intercept

Beijing has announced it has deployed intermediate ballistic missiles to the country's north-we..

Beijing has announced it has deployed intermediate ballistic missiles to the country's north-west region, saying the weapons have the capacity to destroy US ships entering disputed waters in the South China Sea.

Key points:

  • The missiles can fire long distances and would be difficult for US ships to shoot down
  • Defence strategy expert Dr Malcom Davis said the move means China can back up its threats
  • The news came after a US guided missile destroyer passed through the South China Sea

The DF-26 missiles — which have been previously dubbed the 'Guam Killer' or 'Guam Express' by Chinese media and defence experts — are capable of carrying conventional or nuclear warheads.

They have a range of 4,500 kilometres, making them capable of reaching as far as Guam in the east and Indonesia in the south, providing Beijing with a powerful weapon as tensions continue to rise in the South China Sea.

External Link: @globaltimesnews: China's df-26 missiles

According to Chinese state media publication The Global Times, the DF-26 missiles are now stationed in north-west China's sparse plateau and desert areas, carried on the backs of trucks able to traverse the harsh terrain.

Speaking on condition of anonymity, a Beijing-based military expert told the Times that positioning the missiles deep in China's mainland made them more difficult to intercept as it allowed the missile to enter its final stages at a high speed.

Footage on CCTV showed trucks carrying the missiles driving through rough terrain and sand dunes.

The missiles were first paraded in 2015 and China confirmed they were now operational in April last year, but this is the first footage of the missiles outside of a parade.

It is unclear when the missiles were moved to the northwest region, the Times reported. (more…)

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Melbourne driver who cheated death when sign fell on car in no rush to drive again

Related Story: Dashcam footage shows moment car was crushed by falling freeway sign

The Melbourne ..

Related Story: Dashcam footage shows moment car was crushed by falling freeway sign

The Melbourne driver who cheated death when an overhead road sign fell and crushed her car says she cannot believe such an accident could happen in Australia.

Key points:

  • A second sign on the Tullamarine Freeway has been taken down as a precautionary measure
  • An inspection of similar-sized sign and gantries is underway
  • VicRoads says an independent investigator has been brought in to determine what happened

Extraordinary dashcam footage shows the moment the five-by-four metre sign fell in front of, and then on top of, Nella Lettieri's car as she was travelling on Melbourne's Tullamarine Freeway earlier this week.

While the 53-year-old was not seriously injured, she is bruised and battered — and wondering how she is still alive.

"It felt like a roller door had slammed shut in front of me," Ms Lettieri said.

"I've gone to swerve, but as I swerved, it just felt like the sign was actually falling on the car.

"And it just kept bouncing, and I felt like it was pushing me to the right, and I'm thinking, 'OK, is it going to stop?'"

A woman smiling and looking off camera.

She thought the metal object may have been from a plane landing or taking off from the nearby Essendon Airport, or from a truck on the freeway.

But she was shocked to discover it was actually an overhead sign, meant to be directing drivers to their destination. (more…)

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In his Brexit speech in Wakefield, Jeremy Corbyn again demanded the impossible

Speaking in Wakefield this morning, Jeremy Corbyn restated his demand for a solution to the Brexit i..

Speaking in Wakefield this morning, Jeremy Corbyn restated his demand for a solution to the Brexit impasse that appears effectively impossible: a general election.

In what is likely to be his last major public statement before MPs vote on the withdrawal agreement next Tuesday, he attempted to redefine the terms of the question facing both the Labour leadership and its MPs – from those that threaten to stretch his fissiparous electoral coalition to breaking point, to those which, on paper, unite it.

That resulted in a speech whose thrust was an appeal to class consciousness from Remainers in Tottenham and Leavers in Mansfield, rather than any meaningful debate over the validity or viability of Brexit itself. “Youre up against it,” Corbyn said, citing austerity, stagnant wages, and the cost of living crisis, “but youre not against each other.”

Accordingly, his cursory repetition of Labours policy – that a second referendum should remain on the table as an option in the event a general election does not happen – came with a caveat so huge that it amounted to an implicit dismissal of a so-called peoples vote. “Any political leader who wants to bring the country together cannot wish away the votes of 17 million people who wanted to leave, any more than they can ignore the concerns of the 16 million who voted to remain.”

But despite the fact that his attention was more or less exclusively focussed on the question of what sort of future relationship with Europe would negotiate – with the fact of the divorce undisputed – Corbyn categorically ruled out doing anything but whipping his MPs to vote against the withdrawal agreement. The vast majority of them will do so on Thursday, after which point Corbyn said, as expected, that Labour would table a motion of no confidence in the hope of securing an election and with it the chance to renegotiate Brexit (rather than, say, holding a second referendum).

Notably, however, he did not specify a timescale for tabling a confidence vote after Mays deal falls – despite several of his shadow cabinet ministers insisting that he would do so “immediately”. He instead put on the record the more cautious line briefed by his team yesterday: “Labour will table a motion of no confidence in the government at the moment we judge it to have the best chance of success.”

That statement of intent was followed with a caveat seldom offered by shadow cabinet ministers sent out to spin the partys line on Brexit. “Clearly,” Corbyn said, “Labour does not have enough MPs in parliament to win a confidence vote on its own.” As he himself alluded to when he urged opposition MPs to join Labour in voting against the government, Labours chances remain slim until such time that the ten DUP MPs drop the government. (That every other party will is a racing certainty.) Paradoxically, the defeat of the withdrawal agreement – and with it the backstop Mays sometime coalition partners object to – will make that chance even slimmer.

We know from what Corbyn said this morning that the Labour leadership will not whip its MPs to approve Theresa Mays Brexit, back a second referendum out of choice – both courses threaten its electoral base in different ways – or support any attempt by Downing Street to make the Brexit deal more amenable to Labour MPs by tacking on guarantees on workers rights. That strategy has held until now.

But failure to roll the pitch for any alternative at all – or, indeed, for the inevitable breakdown in party discipline after Mays vote is defeated and Labour has no way to bind MPs who seek mutually exclusive Brexit aims – will make the messy politics of the aftermath of next Tuesday rather more difficult to finesse.

Patrick Maguire is the New Statesman's political correspondent. (more…)

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