The Swedish no-confidence motion explained: who's involved and what it means

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The Swedish no-confidence motion explained: who's involved and what it means
The no-confidence vote in the Riksdag in January 2015. Photo: Jessica Gow/TT

Three Swedish government ministers now face a no-confidence motion from the opposition Alliance parties in the wake of the recent transport data leak. But what exactly does that mean? The Local gives you the low-down.


Sweden is in the midst of a government crisis following recent revelations that its Transport Agency (Transportstyrelsen) had outsourced IT maintenance to IBM in 2015, exposing top-secret data to foreign IT workers. 
On Wednesday, the opposition Alliance parties – the Moderates, Centre Party, Christian Democrats and the Liberals – announced a no-confidence motion against three government ministers involved in the scandal. 
Who's involved and how?
As minister for infrastructure, Anna Johansson is ultimately the minister responsible for Transportstyrelsen, the Swedish Transport Agency. She and Prime Minister Stefan Löfven were reportedly informed about the outsourcing security concerns in January 2017.
Minister for Defence Peter Hultqvist was briefed by the Swedish Armed Forces on the security issues, which were being investigated by the security service, Säpo, in March 2016. 
Minister for Home Affairs Anders Ygeman was also informed early in 2016.  
Infrastructure Minister Anna Johansson
Anna Johansson faces reporters after being quizzed by the Riksdag's transport and defence committees. Photo: Ari Luostarinen/TT
What does the no-confidence motion process look like in Sweden?
The Riksdag (parliament) can force a government minister, or an entire government, to resign through a no-confidence motion.
At least 35 MPs must propose a no-confidence motion to the Riksdag in order for a vote on the motion to take place.
A minimum of 175 of the Riksdag's 349 MPs must vote for the no-confidence motion in order for the Riksdag to pass the motion. 
If the Riksdag passes a motion of no confidence against a government minister, said minister must resign. If the Riksdag passes a no-confidence motion against the Prime Minister, the entire government must resign or call a snap election – in the present case the motion is directed against the three aforementioned ministers, not the Prime Minister.
As the Riksdag is currently in recess over the summer months (the next parliamentary session begins on September 12th), the signatures of at least 115 MPs are required for an extraordinary no-confidence meeting to be held.
How common are no-confidence motions in Sweden?
There have been seven no-confidence motions in the Riksdag so far, but none of them passed. 
The current Red-Green government, made up of the Social Democrats and the Greens (and with informal backing from the Left Party), has already faced two no-confidence motions. Both motions were initiated by the nationalist Sweden Democrats.
A no-confidence motion vote against Finance Minister Magdalena Andersson (Social Democrats) was held in the Riksdag in October 2015. The anti-immigration Sweden Democrats were dissatisfied with the finance minister's budget proposal, which they believed was under-financed due to immigration costs.
In January 2015 the Sweden Democrats initiated a no-confidence motion against Prime Minister Stefan Löfven. The party was dissatisfied with the PM's conflicting messages about resignations and snap elections after the 2014 general election. The five other instances date back several decades.
October 2002: The Moderates launched a no-confidence motion against the Social Democrats for not having reached an agreement on backing from the Left Party and the Green Party three weeks after the general election. 
October 1998: The Moderates launched a no-confidence motion against then-Prime Minister Göran Persson of the Social Democrats for not having resigned after the general election. 
November 1996: A motion of no confidence was launched by the Moderates, Liberals (then Liberal People's Party) and the Christian Democrats against then-Prime Minister Göran Persson for a statement he made during a visit to China. (He told Swedish Radio: "To me, it is incredibly striking what political stability means for economic development when you look at the Chinese example.")
February 1985: The Moderates, the Liberals and the Centre Party instigated a no-confidence motion against Foreign Minister Lennart Bodström of the Social Democrats after a statement he had made about Soviet submarines in Swedish territorial waters.
October 1980: The Social Democrats and then-Left Party Communists (now the Left Party) initiated a motion of no confidence against then-Prime Minister Thorbjörn Fälldin, of the Centre Party, over dissatisfaction with the government's economic policy.
What will this mean for the current government?
Prime Minister Stefan Löfven is now faced with difficult decisions ahead. Regardless of the outcome of the no-confidence motion, business as usual is not an option, according to political scientist Jonas Hinnfors at the University of Gothenburg.
"He can either let the motion of no confidence take place, and stay on until the next election, or he could choose to sack the ministers himself," Hinnfors told TT newswire.
Stefan Löfven
PM Stefan Löfven at a press conference with Sweden's Armed Forces, Säpo and Transportstyrelsen. Photo: Emma-Sofia Olsson/SvD/TT
According to Hinnfors, it is obvious that the Alliance will demand political responsibility from the government for the IT scandal, which means the pressure, in the end, will be on Löfven. 
"With such an incapacitated government, Löfven has the options of either resigning or calling a snap election. The latter could be seen as a way for Löfven to fight back by moving the focus onto the Alliance and their difficulties forming a government without support from the Sweden Democrats," Hinnfors said.


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