Sweden: Deadlock looms as Swedish election nears | Reuters

Neither of Sweden’s main political blocs is likely to win a majority in an election on Sunday, giving the far-right Sweden Democrats a key role in shaping the next government. The center-left bloc, uniting the minority governing Social Democrat and Green parties with the Left Party, is backed by about 40 percent of voters, recent opinion polls show, a slim lead over the center-right Alliance bloc. The Sweden Democrats, who oppose immigration and Sweden’s continued membership of the European Union, are polling around 18 percent of the vote and would thus hold the balance of power.

Italy: Election Expected To Produce Hung Parliament | Eurasia Review

Italy will vote on March 4 in an election expected to produce a hung parliament, instability and possible market turbulence in the eurozone’s third largest economy. Prime Minister Paolo Gentiloni’s cabinet set the date of the vote after the president dissolved parliament on 28 December, formally opening an election campaign which in practice has already been raging bitterly for weeks. With opinion polls suggesting no one will win a parliamentary majority, Gentiloni said he would remain in office and ensure continuity until a new administration was in place. As things stand, a centre-right alliance around Silvio Berlusconi’s Forza Italia (Go Italy) looks set to take the largest number of seats – potentially catapulting the 81-year-old four-times premier back to centre stage, even though he cannot become prime minister due to a tax fraud conviction.

New Zealand: As Jacinda Ardern falls short in election, New Zealand gets hung parliament | The Guardian

The future of New Zealand’s new government has been put in the hands of Winston Peters, a cantankerous, anti-immigration politician who prefers fishing to politics, after vote counting finished in the general election. Neither of the major parties – National, led by the incumbent prime minister, Bill English, or Jacinda Ardern’s Labour – secured enough seats to form a majority government in a frustrating poll on Saturday. National secured 46% of the vote, giving it 58 seats in parliament, while Labour took home 35.8% and 45 seats. Both parties were scrambling to form coalitions with the minor parties in order to reach 61 seats and the ability to govern in the 120-seat parliament. Peters, the unpredictable leader of the populist New Zealand First party, became kingmaker after gaining 7.5% of the vote and nine seats, although not his own seat of Northland. The 72-year-old lawyer made a teasing statement to the media about his intentions before rushing to board the last ferry home on Saturday night.

United Kingdom: Theresa May Loses Overall Majority in U.K. Parliament | The New York Times

Prime Minister Theresa May of Britain suffered a major setback in a tumultuous election on Thursday, losing her overall majority in Parliament and throwing her government into uncertainty less than two weeks before it is scheduled to begin negotiations over withdrawing from the European Union. Mrs. May, the Conservative leader, called the snap election three years early, expecting to cruise to a smashing victory that would win her a mandate to see Britain through the long and difficult negotiations with European leaders over the terms of leaving the union. But according to results reported early Friday morning, the extraordinary gamble Mrs. May made in calling the election backfired. She could no longer command enough seats to avoid a hung Parliament, meaning that no party has enough lawmakers to establish outright control.

Spain: With little hope of actually electing a government, Spain preparing to vote for third time in a year | Los Angeles Times

As Americans cast ballots this fall, they might spare a thought for Spaniards preparing to do the same — for the third time in a year, with little hope of actually electing a government. For nearly nine months, Spain has had only a caretaker, lame-duck government. Public infrastructure investment is on hold. Lawmakers have been unable to approve a new national budget. Some embassies are left with no ambassador. It’s the longest Spain has gone without elected officials since it became a democracy in 1978, and it’s testing the country’s fortitude. (Belgium is believed to hold the world record for a democracy going without an elected government: 589 days in 2010-11.) After a punishing economic crisis, two new national parties have emerged in Spain: Podemos, or We Can, on the left, and Ciudadanos, or Citizens, at the center-right. Both are led by fresh politicians in their 30s, challenging Spain’s 4-decade-old establishment of elites. The result? Absolute deadlock.

Australia: Election cliff-hanger leaves nation in limbo | Reuters

Australia’s political parties began horsetrading on Sunday to break an anticipated parliamentary deadlock after a dramatic election failed to produce a clear winner, raising the prospect of prolonged political and economic instability. The exceptionally close vote leaves Prime Minister Malcolm Turnbull’s center-right Liberal Party-led government in a precarious position, potentially needing the support of independent and minor parties. It has also opened the door to the possibility, albeit less likely, that the main opposition Labor Party could win enough backing from the smaller parties to form government itself, although Turnbull said on Sunday he remained “quietly confident” of returning his coalition to power for another three-year term.

Australia: Leadership in Doubt as Election Too Close to Call | The New York Times

Australians awoke Sunday to a government plagued in uncertainty after a stunningly close national election failed to deliver a clear victor, raising the prospect of a hung parliament. The gamble by Prime Minister Malcolm Turnbull to call a rare early election may have failed, with his conservative Liberal Party-led coalition on track to lose a swathe of seats in the House of Representatives — and potentially control of the country. One day after the election, the race remained too close to call, with mail-in ballots and early votes yet to be counted. Still, Turnbull sounded a confident tone during a speech to supporters early Sunday morning. “Based on the advice I have from the party officials, we can have every confidence that we will form a coalition majority government in the next parliament,” Turnbull said.

Spain: Clock Is Ticking as Spanish Politicians Seek Governing Pact or Face New Election | Bloomberg

Ten weeks after a general election produced an unprecedented deadlock in parliament, efforts to form a government in Spain are entering a critical phase. Socialist leader Pedro Sanchez will start the countdown to a fresh ballot when he asks lawmakers to let him lead the next government in a vote on Wednesday. The legislature will then have another two months to find a prime minister before a new election is triggered. With just 90 lawmakers in the 350-seat chamber, and another 40 from his pro-market ally Ciudadanos, he’s almost certain to be rejected at the first attempt. Still, Sanchez is betting that his attempts to find a way out of the impasse will win him credit with voters and put pressure on Acting Prime Minister Mariano Rajoy’s People’s Party and anti-austerity group Podemos to drop their opposition. Sanchez aims to make the PP and Podemos look like obstacles to the Socialists’ efforts to take the country forward, according to Kiko Llaneras, a Madrid-based polling analyst at the research group Politikon. “Nobody wants to go to elections but if it has to happen everyone wants to go with the best possible political message,” said Llaneras. “The polls after the confidence votes will be a key test.”

Spain: Parliament Rejects Socialist Sánchez’s Bid to Form Spain’s Government | Wall Street Journal

The Spanish parliament on Wednesday rejected Socialist party leader Pedro Sánchez´s candidacy to form a center-left government in the first of two votes that will end or prolong the country’s 10-week-old leadership impasse. The conservative Popular Party of incumbent Prime Minister Mariano Rajoy and the far-left Podemos party led the opposition to Mr. Sánchez, who lost the vote of confidence by a margin of 219 to 130. If Mr. Sánchez loses a second confidence vote on Friday Spain will face more weeks of bargaining among political parties represented in the parliament elected on Dec. 20 and the possibility of a new parliamentary election this summer.

Ireland: Divided parliament mulls awkward pacts, second election | Associated Press

Ireland’s election has produced a parliament full of feuding factions and no obvious road to a majority government, spurring lawmakers to warn Sunday that the country could face a protracted political deadlock followed by a second election. For the first time in Irish electoral history, the combined popular vote Friday for Ireland’s two political heavyweights – the Fianna Fail and Fine Gael parties – fell below 50 per cent as voters infuriated by austerity measures shifted their support to a Babel of anti-government voices. The results left parliament with at least nine factions and a legion of loose-cannon independents, few of them easy partners for a coalition government, none of them numerous enough to make a difference on their own.

Ireland: Risks of hung parliament, impasse after election Friday | Associated Press

Politicians issued their final appeals for support Thursday on the eve of Ireland’s election, a contest that could produce a hung parliament and political instability in Europe’s main success story for austerity. Prime Minister Enda Kenny and Deputy Prime Minister Joan Burton shared a pot of tea at a Dublin restaurant as they asked voters to keep their 5-year-old coalition government intact. Polls consistently suggest they’ll lose their majority position in parliament and will need more allies to remain in office. Kenny and Burton have struggled during the past three weeks of door-to-door campaigning to win credit for Ireland’s unexpectedly rapid rebound from a 2010 international bailout, the crisis that brought them to power five years ago.