Sweden Democrats hold key to speaker vote

Sweden Democrats hold key to speaker vote
Social Democrat Kent Härstedt plans to run for Speaker of the Riksdag
The far-right Sweden Democrats stand to hold the balance of power on Monday in the election of a new Speaker of the Riksdag after the Social Democrats nominated a candidate.

It was widely reported on Friday morning that the two rival political blocs had reached their first post-election agreement to leave Moderate candidate Per Westerberg unchallenged, but a later announcement that the Social Democrats planned to nominate Kent Härstedt has thrown the post back into doubt.

“We must build on what is the best proposal,” said Social Democrat leader Mona Sahlin who underlined that despite the move, the party would hold its promise not to make itself dependent on the Sweden Democrats.

“We can not ignore the Sweden Democrats from the Swedish Parliament. No matter who is elected, it must be by a majority,” said Harstedt on the question of how it would feel if he is elected with the help of the Sweden Democrats’ votes.

“I am standing as a candidate for the Red-Greens and no one else,” he said.

If Kent Harstedt is not chosen by the Riksdag then the Social Democrats would forward Susanne Eberstein as a candidate for the first vice-speaker post.

The position of second vice-speaker traditionally goes to a representative from the third largest party in the Riksdag, a ranking currently held by the Green Party, which plans to nominate former MEP Ulf Holm.

The Dagens Nyheter (DN) newspaper reported on Friday that the centre-right Alliance and the centre-left Red-Green opposition had agreed on Wednesday to have Per Westerberg of the Moderate Party continue as the Speaker of the Riksdag.

The two sides were reported to have agreed on Westerberg after the leading candidate from the Red-Green side, Social Democrat Björn von Sydow, withdrew his name because he “didn’t want to be in a situation where the Sweden Democrats can vote for me”.

Despite Friday’s Red-Green move, Mona Sahlin stated that the principle of not depending on the Sweden Democrats still stands, underlining that the Social Democrats plan to be part of an active opposition over the next mandate period.

“I am not going to do as (Centre Party leader) Maud Olofsson says and suspend the work of the opposition for four years, then the Sweden Democrats would be the only opposition and that would be devastating,” she said.

The Sweden Democrats have meanwhile initiated contact with the other parliamentary parties over the election of the Speaker, according to SD leader Jimmie Åkesson.

“This means that we hold the balance of power in this issue and we decide who will be the Speaker of the Riksdag,” Åkesson said after the Red-Green announcement.

Åkesson told news agency TT that he did not known if the other parties had responded to the request, which was made at the parliamentary group leader level.

“But this must reasonably mean that they have to talk with us now,” he said.

Åkesson is hopeful that the parties will also now be prepared to talk to the Sweden Democrats about other proposals set to be presented to the Riksdag.

The Sweden Democrats are expected to make a play for the Second Deputy Speaker post when, and if, the other parliamentary parties get in contact.

“We’re going to nominate an opposition candidate and request a vote,” said Sweden Democrat press secretary Mattias Karlsson to DN earlier on Friday.

Åkesson said earlier in the week that he sees his party as a “third bloc” in the Riksdag and thus deserves to hold the Second Deputy Speaker post.

The Third Deputy Speaker position is set to remain in the hands of the Liberal Party (Folkpartiet), the fourth largest party in the Riksdag, which has proposed that Liselott Hagberg remain in the position.

The Speaker is the Riksdag’s principal representative, playing a vital role in organising the work of the chamber and presiding over meetings.

The Riksdag also has three Deputy Speakers who take turns presiding over meetings and representing the Riksdag in various contexts when the Speaker is away from the chamber.

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