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What next for Sweden amid record-long government talks?

Social Democrats leader Stefan Löfven has not yet managed to form a new government, he said at a press conference on Monday.

What next for Sweden amid record-long government talks?
Stefan Löfven after meeting parliament speaker Andreas Norlén on Monday. Photo: Jonas Ekströmer/TT

Sweden has never waited so long for a government to be formed before.

After an inconclusive election left neither of the two main blocs with a majority, Löfven was ousted from his role as prime minister in a confidence vote, but still leads a caretaker government.

After the election of new parliamentary speakers, centre-right Moderates leader Ulf Kristersson was given two weeks to try to form a government, but failed, and the task was passed to Löfven.

Now his two-week time period is up, and the centre-left leader said after meeting speaker Andreas Norlén on Monday morning that he too had failed. He told journalists that talks with fellow party leaders had been “constructive” and “honest” but that no one had changed their position.

One looming obstacle on the horizon is Sweden's 2019 budget, a proposal for which must be put forward to parliament by November 15th. A caretaker government has almost the same powers as a normal government, but is not meant to make any major radical or partisan decisions – which would normally include those part of budget proposal. Löfven has previously said that the finance ministry has started working on a politically neutral budget proposal, if his government has no choice but to put one to a vote in parliament.

After meeting all party leaders on Monday, Norlén said he would not appoint another person to head further negotiations at this stage. Instead he said he would continue meeting party leaders for group talks to discuss possible coalition alternatives.

The speaker has a total of four chances to ask a candidate to try to form a government that will be accepted by parliament – and all four chances still remain, since parliament has not yet voted on any proposal.

It's not essential for a majority in parliament to support the speaker's proposal, but it will fail if a majority vote against it. If they cannot agree, a new election shall be held within three months. However, this has never happened in Swedish history because parliament has always approved the first proposal.

FOR MEMBERS: Who will govern Sweden? Eight possible coalition scenarios

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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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