As The Local has previously explained, no party or bloc won a majority (or even a large enough minority) in Sweden's September 9th elections, which meant there is currently no obvious prime minister candidate.
The formal procedure when it comes to choosing a prime minister after an election is that the speaker of parliament picks whoever he thinks has the biggest chance of getting accepted by parliament, who then votes for the person, who then becomes prime minister. The process is usually fairly smooth.
Not the case this time.
After lengthy negotiations, the speaker has so far put forward two candidates who have both been resoundingly rejected by parliament: conservative leader Ulf Kristersson and Social Democrat Löfven.
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There is no set deadline by which Sweden must form a government, but the number of votes that can be held is capped at four, after which a snap election has to be held. And so, after Friday's vote, speaker Andreas Norlén said that he would continue negotiations with the various party leaders over the weekend – but that he would also start setting the wheels in motion for a snap election if it comes to that.
“I note that the parties in parliament are pushing Sweden closer to a snap election. I regret that and I'm going to do everything I can to prevent it, but if the parties choose a snap election instead of acting in a way that gives Sweden a new government, I will not stand in their way. I believe that I have to take measures in order to prepare for that,” he said.
Norlén met representatives of Sweden's Election Authority on Friday, but it is understood it was only a general discussion at this stage and it was not revealed in detail what was said. There is currently no one in Sweden who can call a new election. The speaker does not have that authority and neither does Löfven's outgoing caretaker government, so the only way is to first have the remaining two votes in parliament.
Stefan Löfven and Ulf Kristersson during the election campaign. Photo: Anders Wiklund/TT
A new election would then have to be held within three months. This is organized just like an ordinary election, except that there will be no need for new regional or local elections, only national. Nevertheless, the Swedish Election Authority will have to print ballot papers, book venues and recruit people to run polling stations – all while preparing the same thing for the European Parliament election on May 26th.
There have been discussions about holding a snap election the same day as the European election to minimize administrative work. However, in that case the final parliament vote would have to be held no earlier than February 26th, and the speaker has said it is unlikely the process will drag on for that long.
The fact that speaker Norlén has started laying the groundwork for a potential snap election does not automatically mean that there will indeed be one. The political parties may yet find a compromise.
But if a new election is held, after the results are in parliament will then meet (again) to first elect a new speaker (again), and then resume the process of trying to choose a prime minister (again).
Sweden has a four-year term of office, but a snap election would not affect the usual election schedule, so the next ordinary election would still be held in September 2022.
To catch up with everything that has happened since the election, The Local's timeline offers a handy overview. And if you have any questions about the process, please log in to comment below.