Swedish PM shakes up cabinet in key reshuffle

UPDATED: Swedish Prime Minister Stefan Löfven has announced a cabinet reshuffle widely interpreted as an attempt to turn a page on weeks of scandals for the centre-left coalition government.

Swedish PM shakes up cabinet in key reshuffle
Ann Linde, Peter Eriksson, Isabella Lövin, Stefan Löfven, Karolina Skog and Ibrahim Baylan. Photo: Jonas Ekströmer/TT

“I'm appointing three new ministers and giving other ministers new portfolios,” Löfven told reporters at a press conference in Stockholm on Wednesday morning.

He was joined at the podium by new ministers Ann Linde, Karolina Skog, Peter Eriksson, as well as newly-appointed Green Party co-leader Isabella Lövin and current Energy Minister Ibrahim Baylan.

“It was a minor change. People had been speculating over whether it would be a big one or a small one. This was a small one. Not quite the most modest he could have made, but almost,” political scientist Stig-Björn Ljunggren told The Local. 

“Other than Ann Linde there were really no names here that were a big surprise. Löfven isn't the kind of guy to make big strategic changes in the middle of the year,” he added. 

The Prime Minister echoed that sentiment in his own analysis of the reshuffle. “Some call it a big one, some call it a small one, I call it a 'lagom' one,” he told public broadcaster SVT after the press conference.

The reshuffle follows a spate of scandals for Löfven's coalition, including the resignation of two government heavyweights. Environment Minister and Deputy Prime Minister Åsa Romson stepped down this month after she was ousted as co-leader of the Green Party.

Her resignation came after her Green Party colleague, Housing Minister Mehmet Kaplan, quit after it emerged in mid-April that he had kept company with Turkish extremists.

Lövin, who took over the reins from Romson, will become new Deputy Minister with special responsibility for climate issues, said Löfven. She will also remain as minister of international development cooperation.

Eriksson, who headed the Green Party 2002-2011, will be Sweden's next housing minister.

“Peter Eriksson is one of the Green Party's most seasoned and experienced politicians, who I know as a cooperative person with his feet on the ground. (…) He is also a northerner,” joked Löfven, who grew up in northern Sweden, demonstrating his regional allegiances.

And the appointment of the veteran politician will be seen as a plus for the government, according to political scientist Ljunggren.

“Eriksson will get attention. Not because he's a surprise, but because he's a charismatic figure. He's both an orator and a doer: he walks the walk and talks the talk. That's a plus for the government.”

Skog, a former Malmö councillor in southern Sweden, is the new environment minister.

Baylan will stay on as energy minister, but will be responsible for co-ordinating cross-departmental policy issues.

Linde, who has previously worked in an adminstrative role within Sweden's interior ministry, will become EU and trade minister.

Löfven also announced that the much-debated cabinet position 'minister of the future', held by Social Democrat Kristina Persson, will be scrapped.

He also said that the creation of an EU and trade minister would mean that Minister for Enterprise and Innovation Mikael Damberg, who has previously been responsible for dealing with export, would be able to focus on his main portfolio.

The sitting labour minister, Ylva Johansson, will keep her portfolio but will also be appointed 'establishment minister', co-ordinating the work of helping immigrants start a life and find work within Swedish society.

Reporting by Emma Löfgren and Lee Roden

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What’s the Swedish Christian Democrats’ abortion contract all about?

Ebba Busch, leader of Sweden's Christian Democrats on Monday presented an "abortion contract", which she wants all of Sweden's party leaders to sign. What's going on?

What's the Swedish Christian Democrats' abortion contract all about?

What’s happened? 

Ebba Busch, leader of Sweden’s Christian Democrat party, called a press conference on Monday in which she presented a document that she called “an abortion contract”, which was essentially a pledge to safeguard the right of women in Sweden to have an abortion.  

“There is room for signatures from all eight party leaders,” she said. “I have already signed on behalf of the Christian Democrats.” 

What does the so-called “abortion contract” say? 

The document itself is fairly uncontroversial.

It states simply that Sweden’s law on abortion dates back to 1974, and that it grants women the right to an abortion up until the 18th week of pregnancy, with women seeking abortions later in their pregnancy required to get permission from the National Board of Health and Welfare. 

“Those of us who have signed this document support Sweden’s abortion legislation and promise to defend it if it comes under attack from forces both within our country and from outside,” the document reads.  

Why have the Christian Democrats produced it? 

The decision of the US Supreme Court to overturn Roe vs Wade, and so allow US states to ban abortion has aroused strong feelings in Sweden, as elsewhere, and Busch is seeking to send a strong signal to distance her own Christian party from the US religious right. 

Abortion has been a recurring issue within the Christian Democrats with several politicians and party members critical of abortion. 

Lars Adaktusson, a Christian Democrat MP, was found by the Dagens Nyheter newspaper to have voted against abortion 22 times when he was a member of the European parliament. 

The party has also in the past campaigned for the right of midwives and other medical professionals who are ethically opposed to abortion not to have to take part in the procedure. 

So why aren’t all the other party leaders signing the document? 

Sweden’s governing Social Democrats, and their Green Party allies, dismissed the contract as a political gimmick designed to help the Christian Democrats distance themselves from elements of their own party critical of abortion. 

“It would perhaps be good if Ebba Busch did some homework within her own party to check that there’s 100 percent support for Sweden’s abortion legislation,” Magdalena Andersson, Sweden’s prime minister, said. “That feels like a more important measure than writing contracts between party leaders and trying to solve it that way.”  

In a debate on Swedish television, Green Party leader Märta Stenevi argued that it would be much more significant if Busch’s own MPs and MEPs all signed the document. 

It wasn’t other party leaders who needed to show commitment to abortion legislation, but “her own MPs, MEPs, and not least her proposed government partners in the Sweden Democrats and even some within the Moderate Party”. 

She said it made her “very very worried” to see that the Christian Democrats needed such a contract. “That’s why I see all this more as a clear sign that we need to move forward with protecting the right to abortion in the constitution,” she said. 

How have the other right-wing parties reacted? 

The other right-wing parties have largely backed Busch, although it’s unclear if any other party leaders are willing to actually sign the document. 

Tobias Billström, the Moderates’ group parliamentary leader, retweeted a tweet from Johan Paccamonti, a Stockholm regional politician with the Moderate Party, which criticised the Social Democrats for not signing it, however. 

“It seems to be more important to blow up a pretend conflict than to sign the Christian Democrats’ contract or look at the issue of [including abortion rights in] the constitution, like the Moderates, Liberals and Centre Party want to,” Paccamonti wrote. 

The Liberal Party on Sunday proposed protecting abortion rights in the Swedish constitution, a proposal which has since been backed by the Moderate party and the Centre Party