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Swedish politics: Why Stefan Löfven is set to return as PM two weeks after being voted out

Stefan Löfven is expected to be voted back in as prime minister today. But it’s a close vote that could be determined by even a single MP going against the party line.

Swedish politics: Why Stefan Löfven is set to return as PM two weeks after being voted out
Prime Minister Stefan Löfven leaving parliament after being ousted in a historic no-confidence vote. Photo: Nils Petter Nilsson/TT

Bring me up to speed: what has happened so far?

The government failed a vote of no confidence which brought together the Left Party (which was strongly against proposals to change Swedish rental laws, which the government had agreed with its former conservative opposition rivals) and the right-of-centre parties (which mostly support the rental law in question but seized the chance to topple the left-of-centre government).

That meant Löfven, who became the first leader in Swedish history to lose a no-confidence vote, could decide whether to call a snap election or resign. He opted for the latter, which triggered a round of party negotiations led by the parliamentary speaker.

After Ulf Kristersson, the leader of Sweden’s main opposition party the Moderates, then abandoned his own bid to form a government after realising he didn’t have the votes, the torch was handed back to Löfven – resulting in the vote about to be held in parliament today.

What will happen today?

The Swedish parliament will vote on Löfven as prime minister at 2pm.

For Löfven to be successful, he will need at least 175 of the 349 members of parliament to either abstain or not actively vote against him. In other words, he doesn’t need a majority to vote for him, as long as the majority does not actively vote against him.

But it’s a close race. Löfven’s own Social Democrats and his government coalition partner the Greens will vote for him, and both the Left Party and the Centre Party have said they will abstain. This gives Löfven 174 votes in his favour. But former Left Party representative, the independent MP Amineh Kakabaveh, on Tuesday pledged to also abstain after negotiations with the Social Democrats, bringing Löfven to 175 votes and leaving 174 potential votes against him – one short of a majority for the “no” side.

It is also possible that some Liberal MPs will go against their party line and also abstain, in protest of the party’s recent decision to support a conservative coalition which would ultimately be dependent on the support of the anti-immigration Sweden Democrat party.

If Löfven wins

If Löfven wins the vote today, he will be reinstated as prime minister (in practice he never really left, and has been leading a caretaker government since his “departure”). He is then expected to announce his new cabinet on Friday – which will likely be similar to the old cabinet, but he does have the option of reshuffling his ministers.

It is worth noting that even if Löfven is successful, he will likely have a rocky year ahead of him in the run-up to Sweden’s next general election in September 2022. He has not yet secured support for his autumn budget, with the Centre Party refusing to collaborate with the government’s other potential allies in the Left Party on a budget. Löfven has said he will again resign if his budget proposal falls.

If Löfven loses

If Löfven loses the vote, the parliamentary speaker will again reopen talks with the various parties to find a viable government coalition. The speaker gets in total four chances to nominate a prime minister candidate. If parliament rejects all of them, a snap election will automatically take place.

Such an election should be held within three months, which means it would likely take place in September. According to Swedish law this would be considered an “extra” election and would not replace ordinary elections – so the next general election would still be held according to schedule next year.

We’ll be discussing the latest political news on The Local’s Sweden in Focus podcast on Saturday. Click HERE to listen.

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SWEDEN ELECTS

Sweden Elects: The latest political news as the election campaign kicks off

What's Sweden talking about this week? In The Local's Sweden Elects newsletter, editor Emma Löfgren rounds up some of the main talking points ahead of the Swedish election.

Sweden Elects: The latest political news as the election campaign kicks off

In an interview that could have jeopardised his job a decade ago, Social Democrat Immigration Minister Anders Ygeman’s suggestion in DN that there should be a 50 percent cap on non-Nordic immigrants in troubled areas of Swedish cities showed how the debate has shifted in recent years.

That said, his comments did not go without criticism. The Left Party slammed them as “racist”, the Greens and the Centre Party also criticised them, and so did the Moderates and some within the Social Democrats.

Ygeman himself said that he had been misunderstood, that he had never meant it as an actual proposal, and that factors such as crime and unemployment were far more important in terms of integration.

“But of course segregation is not just class-based, it also has an ethnic dimension. If you have areas where almost everyone is from other countries, it’s harder to learn Swedish, and if it’s harder to learn Swedish, it’s harder to get a job,” he told public broadcaster SVT.

What do you think? Email me if you want to share your thoughts.

Campaign posters and a new poll

The centre-left Social Democrats and the Moderates, the largest right-wing opposition party, both unveiled their campaign posters last week, which I guess means that the summer holiday lull is officially over and the election campaign is now definitely under way. Just over a month to go.

It’s interesting that the Social Democrats are clearly trying to turn this into a “presidential” style campaign, taking advantage of Prime Minister Magdalena Andersson’s overwhelming popularity compared to the Moderates’ Ulf Kristersson, whose reception among voters is lukewarm.

A poll by the DN newspaper and Ipsos a month ago suggested that 37 percent of voters want to see Andersson as prime minister, compared to 22 percent who preferred Kristersson (12 percent preferred the anti-immigration Sweden Democrats’ leader Jimmie Åkesson, and the other party leaders did not get more than four percent each).

Andersson is in the unique position where voters like her way more than they like her party – a new opinion poll by Demoskop suggests that 28.7 percent would vote for the Social Democrats if the election was held today (the Moderates would get 20.3 percent). The same poll has all the right-wing parties with a slight majority compared to the left-wing parties.

Anyway, the Social Democrats’ campaign posters cover pensions, schools (specifically, limiting profit-making free schools), crime and law and order. Climate change is conspicuously absent, but a party spokesperson told reporters it will be more prominent in its social media campaigns.

When Kristersson, on the other hand, spoke at his party’s event to kick off their election campaign, he emphasised how he’s got a viable coalition on his side – a jibe at the Social Democrats, who will struggle to get their partners (specifically the Centre and Left parties) to collaborate.

He also reiterated his praise for the Sweden Democrats, and The Local asked several experts if the Moderates are the same party that fought the 2018 election, when Kristersson promised Holocaust survivor Hédi Fried he would not cooperate with the Sweden Democrats after the election.

Election pledges

The Local’s Becky Waterton has looked at the election pledges of Sweden’s four main parties, the Social Democrats, Moderates, Sweden Democrats and Centre Party. Click here to read her guide, it’s a really useful roundup.

And what about Covid? Is Sweden’s handling of the pandemic not going to be a talking point in this election? No, at least not if the parties have their way. The Social Democrats run the government, but most of the regions (who are in charge of healthcare) are run by right-wing coalitions. So from a strictly realpolitik perspective, no party is able to attack another without putting themselves at risk of becoming a target. Best forget about it.

In other political news…

… a Sweden Democrat member of parliament has been accused of sending unsolicited dick pics to women, the Moderates want to legalise altruistic surrogacy in Sweden, the Christian Democrats want a national scheme to improve maternity care, the Liberals want to make it harder for people with a criminal record to become Swedish citizens, and Centre Party leader Annie Lööf hit the campaign trail just before the weekend by pledging to reject any proposal for raised taxes after the election.

Sweden Elects is a weekly column by Editor Emma Löfgren looking at the big talking points and issues in the Swedish election race. Members of The Local Sweden can sign up to receive the column plus several extra features as a newsletter in their email inbox each week. Just click on this “newsletters” option or visit the menu bar.

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