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The election committee joint head of party nominees Gustav Fridolin and Isabella Lovin (R) speak during a presser at the Green Party headquarters in Stockholm, Sweden May 9, 2016. TT News Agency/Jessica Gow/via REUTERS

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STOCKHOLM (Reuters) - Sweden's Greens, the junior party in the ruling coalition, picked Isabella Lovin as new joint leader on Friday, replacing Deputy Prime Minister Asa Romson who stepped down last week.

The Green Party's annual congress voted for Lovin, the Minister for International Development, and re-elected Education Minister Gustav Fridolin to jointly head the party.

"It has, of course, been a very turbulent and difficult time for the party," Lovin said.

She said the party needed to gather its strength, renew voters' faith and show that "we want to continue the work in government and for a better future".

Sweden's minority coalition of Social Democrats and Greens has struggled since taking power in 2014 and there has been rising discontent among Green supporters over a hardening of asylum policies and the party's lack of influence.

Fridolin and Romson had also been widely criticised for their handling of the resignation of Housing Minister Mehmet Kaplan over past comments he had made comparing Israel's treatment of Palestinians to that of Jews in Nazi Germany.

The turmoil has hurt the Greens, with opinion polls showing it getting just over 4 percent support - close to the threshold for seats in parliament.

That will increase pressure on the leadership to deliver results, with some Green supporters questioning whether the party has sacrificed its principles to be in government.

One key test will be whether the Greens can stop the sale of state-owned utility Vattenfall's lignite mines in Germany, which the company has agreed to offload to Czech firm EPH.

If the Greens did withdraw from the coalition, the Social Democrats could govern alone until 2018 or call a snap election. The coalition is lagging the centre-right bloc in opinion polls.

Social Democrat Prime Minister Stefan Lofven announced a government reshuffle after Romson's departure.

(Reporting by Simon Johnson; editing by Andrew Roche)

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