“Fredrik Reinfeldt today became prime minister”, reported tabloid Aftonbladet and broadsheet Dagens Nyheter. Indeed, the Riksdag itself now refers to Reinfeldt as prime minister on its official website. If only the Swedish constitution were that simple.
“He becomes prime minister today, but the new government doesn’t take office until tomorrow,”said Roberta Alenius, spokeswoman for Reinfeldt’s Moderate Party.
Sweden has entered a momentary state of constitutional limbo, with Reinfeldt prime minister, but with Göran Persson in theory still in power for a few more hours.
The new government will formally take control at a meeting with the king at the Royal Palace on Friday. But in the meantime, it’s a bit confused as to who is Sweden’s head of government.
“He has been approved by the Riksdag and assumed the title from the speaker, so in one sense he is prime minister,” said Anna Wieslander, spokeswoman for the Swedish Riksdag.
But what if the government needs to do anything urgent in the 22 hours between Reinfeldt’s election and the meeting with the king?
“I suppose that according to protocol Reinfeldt won’t be prime minister until tomorrow. For the government to do anything official, it’s still Göran Persson who will act.”
On Friday morning at 9am, Reinfeldt will present his new government’s programme to the Riksdag with Göran Persson and his outgoing cabinet still sitting in the government seats. Yet on the Riksdag’s website it says that “the prime minister will present his programme for government.” And there, they’re talking about Fredrik Reinfeldt.
“It works in every important sense, but the protocol’s a bit confused,” admits Wieslander.
Indeed, when Reinfeldt and his colleagues emerge from their visit to the palace on Friday at lunchtime, there will be no doubt as to who rules Sweden.