Who’s running the country? Your questions about the Swedish election

Who's running the country? Your questions about the Swedish election
Parliamentary speaker Andreas Norlén. Photo: Pontus Lundahl/TT
Everything (or at least some of the things) you want to know about the Swedish election but are too cool to ask.

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What has happened so far?

Sweden's election on September 9th left parliament with, essentially, three main blocs rather than its usual two. The centre-left bloc won 144 seats (Social Democrats, Greens, Left), the centre-right bloc 143 seats (Moderates, Liberals, Centre, Christian Democrats), and the far-right Sweden Democrats 62 seats.

This means neither of the traditional left-right blocs is powerful enough to hold a majority or a strong minority, and both have called for some kind of compromise (as long as it's the other side doing the compromising).

Two months of post-election haggling led only to the parties agreeing on little more than that all other parties but themselves were being utterly unreasonable. At that point, parliamentary speaker Andreas Norlén tried to move things on and put Moderate party leader Ulf Kristersson forward as his prime ministerial candidate.

However, Kristersson's proposed coalition of the Moderates and the Christian Democrats was voted down by a parliamentary majority on Wednesday, including by his own Centre and Liberal allies, who said they did not want to support a government that would be reliant on the Sweden Democrats for parliamentary approval.

Sweden's Riksdag voted no to Ulf Kristersson as prime minister. Photo: Janerik Henriksson/TT

What happens next?

Parliamentary speaker Norlén will meet the various party leaders on Thursday and then announce what his next steps will be. Those steps are likely to be one of two options:

1) Norlén picks a new prime ministerial candidate and lets parliament vote anew.

2) Norlén asks one of the party leaders to become the next 'sonderingsperson' – someone who leads new exploratory talks to piece together a new government proposal. Stefan Löfven, the outgoing Social Democrat prime minister, and Kristersson have both had this opportunity before with limited success. The likely next such negotiator will be Centre leader Annie Lööf, whose party both the left and right blocs find the least intolerable.

And then what?

Either way, something's got to give. The Centre and Liberals are both in very tricky positions. Prior to the election, they both committed themselves to 1) not backing a government reliant on the Sweden Democrats, and 2) ousting the centre-left coalition. It looks almost inevitable they will have to break one of those promises.

The Local's Catherine Edwards examined the various options in this in-depth feature.

SWEDEN IN FOCUS: How did the political situation get to where it is today?

Eventually, the speaker will have to put forward another prime ministerial candidate. He has, in total, four attempts – and because he used his first one on Wednesday (Kristersson), there are now three remaining.

After that a new election is automatically called.

Moderate Party leader Ulf Kristersson. Photo: Pontus Lundahl/TT

Who is running the country in the meantime?

Löfven's government lost a no-confidence vote in parliament shortly after the election, but is still in charge during the transition period. A caretaker government has almost exactly the same powers as a regular government, but it can't call a new election and it is not supposed to make any major partisan decisions.

In other words, Sweden is functioning much as before albeit at a slower, more mellow pace.

Is there a deadline for a new government?

Negotiations are not supposed to be indefinite, but there is no formal deadline as to when a new government has to be installed. In theory, things could keep rumbling on until the next general election in four years' time.

There's only one stumbling block: the budget.

What about the budget?

A budget proposal has to be put to parliament by November 15th. As no new government will be in place by then, Löfven's caretaker government will have to put forward an as-politically-neutral-as-possible budget.

The finance ministry has agreed with the opposition Alliance and the Left Party about certain principles of the budget, which will more or less be an extension of last year's without any new major proposals.

Individual parties, however, have until November 30th to put forward their own competing budget proposals, and the Moderate Party has said it plans to do so – either by itself or together with the Alliance. If it is the latter – but the Centre Party and Liberals have yet to agree – Sweden could have a budget row on its hands.

Centre Party leader Annie Lööf in parliament. Photo: Pontus Lundahl/TT

Will there be a snap election?

Interestingly, there is currently no one in Sweden who has the authority to call a new election. The speaker is not allowed to do it, and as mentioned earlier, nor is the sitting caretaker government. So even if everyone were to agree that the only way forward is another election – they would still need to go through the process of having those remaining three votes in parliament. After those votes, a new election is automatically called.

In theory, another (and far less likely) way to have another election could be if the parties agreed to vote for a new prime minister whose only job would be to call a snap election. 

Is there anything you're still wondering about the Swedish government negotiations? Post your question below, or email [email protected] if you're worried that your question is really stupid (and we won't tell anyone you asked).

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