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POLITICS

Sweden’s Left Party ‘not ready’ to support new government deal

UPDATED: The leader of Sweden's Left Party, Jonas Sjöstedt, said on Monday that his party was not prepared to approve Stefan Löfven as prime minister "in the current situation".

Sweden's Left Party 'not ready' to support new government deal
Jonas Sjöstedt with parliamentary speaker Andreas Norlén. Photo: Jessica Gow/TT
READ ALSO: All the latest on Sweden's government negotiations

Parliamentary speaker Andreas Norlén had previously said he planned to nominate a prime ministerial candidate on Monday, to face a parliamentary vote two days later.

He was expected to name Social Democrat leader Löfven after his party on Friday reached a deal with two former opposition rivals and the Green Party.

But this deal would have also required the Left Party – who were not only not a part of the deal, but who were explicitly excluded from influence during the coming term by the deal – to either vote in favour or abstain, in order for Löfven to pass a parliamentary vote.

Left Party leader Jonas Sjöstedt told reporters on Monday afternoon that his party was not prepared to do this, “if the situation remains unchanged”.

“We see problems. We are both surprised and disappointed by how far Stefan Löfven has been prepared to go to the right,” said Sjöstedt, who also described the proposed government agreement as “trying to push us out of normal political influence”.

He stressed that the Left Party wanted to see Löfven stay on as prime minister, but said that the two parties would need to carry out further talks. 

Sjöstedt would not specify exactly what changes he was hoping for, but said: “There are some unreasonable aspects that need to be dealt with first. We are looking for routes forward. We are going to use the coming days to find solutions, which I'm convinced Löfven also wants.”

Under the proposed agreement, the Social Democrats and Green Party would govern with backing from the Centre and Liberal parties. The latter two parties have been part of the centre-right Alliance in opposition to the Social Democrat-Green coalition for the past four years.

TIMELINE: Everything that's happened in Swedish politics since the elections

Timeline: Everything that's happened in Swedish politics since the elections
Photo: Magnus Hjalmarson Neideman/TT

Any potential Swedish government does not need a majority of MPs to vote in its favour in order to govern; the system of negative parliamentarianism instead just requires that a majority does not vote against it. This system, which favours the formation of minority governments, means that parties can give 'passive support' such as abstaining in the prime ministerial vote, allowing the government to pass.

However, the four parties included in the agreement have only 167 seats between them, which means they do not have a majority among parliament's 349 members.

Assuming that the right-wing parties – the Moderates, Christian Democrats and Sweden Democrats – will vote against the deal, this means that Löfven needs the Left Party's 28 MPs to either vote in favour or abstain in Wednesday's prime minister vote in order to avoid a majority of 'no' votes.

Sjöstedt said that he had suggested that parliamentary speaker Norlén postpone the vote planned for Wednesday. Green Party spokesperson Isabella Lövin said her party also hoped the speaker would give the parties extra time before a vote.

Earlier on Monday, Löfven stressed that he had appreciated working together with the Left Party, who were involved in budget negotiations during the last term, but that it had been important to the centre-liberal parties to stake out a new political course.

He said that it would be possible to cooperate with the Left Party on political issues not included in the four-party agreement, but that the agreement itself could not be changed.

The number of votes on prime ministerial candidates that can be held before a second election is forced is capped at four. If a vote does take place on Wednesday, it would be the third such vote, after both Löfven and Moderate Party leader Ulf Kristersson have earlier been rejected by parliament.

To catch up with everything that has happened since the election, CLICK HERE. And if you have any questions about the process, log in to comment below.

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SWEDEN ELECTS

Sweden Elects: How powerful are the Sweden Democrats now?

The Local's editor Emma Löfgren explains how Sweden's parliamentary committees work – and the role the Sweden Democrats will play in them.

Sweden Elects: How powerful are the Sweden Democrats now?

Hej,

The speaker of parliament has given Ulf Kristersson, leader of the conservative Moderates and the likely next prime minister of Sweden, October 12th as a deadline to conclude his government negotiations.

If Kristersson comes up with a viable proposal for a ruling coalition, the speaker will put that proposal to parliament within four days. Chances are Sweden will have its new right-wing government by mid-October.

What will that government look like? Most likely, it will consist of at least the Moderates and the Christian Democrats. Rumours have it Kristersson is hoping to bring the Liberals into the governmental fold, and it is unlikely that the far-right Sweden Democrats will be part of the government.

But anyone who thinks the latter means they will be left on the sidelines is mistaken. They will have demanded significant concessions in order to support Kristersson’s government (and especially to make way for the Liberals) from parliament, and judging from recent news, they got them.

In a joint press release last week, the right wing – the Moderates, Christian Democrats, Liberals and Sweden Democrats – said they had reached a deal on how to share responsibility for their parliamentary committees.

There are 15 committees in the Swedish parliament, seats on which are held by members of parliament, with larger parties getting more seats as well as more high-ranking roles such as chair and deputy chair.

The right wing is after this election entitled to 16 chair and deputy chair roles, and the Sweden Democrats will get half of those, the parties agreed. The key thing that many political pundits were keeping an eye on was which committees, as that tells us a lot about how far they got in their negotiations with the other right-wing parties. The answer: far.

The Sweden Democrats will get to chair the Justice, Foreign Affairs, Labour Market, and Industry and Trade Committees – all heavyweight committees. 

Their most high-profile appointment is Richard Jomshof, one of the most senior Sweden Democrats who in the run-up to the election gave an anti-Islam speech (not the first time). He will chair the Justice Committee.

The Moderates will chair the Finance and Social Insurance Committees (plus the EU Committee), the Christian Democrats will chair the Health and Welfare Committee, and the Liberals will chair the Education Committee.

On the other side, the left-wing parties will get to chair the Defence, Taxation, Constitution, Civil Affairs, Transport and Communications, Environment and Agriculture, and Cultural Affairs Committees.

So what exactly do the parliamentary committees do, and how much influence will the Sweden Democrats now have over legislation?

The votes of every member of the committees count equally (there are at least 15 members on every committee, representing the various parties from left to right), and the chair gets the final vote if there’s a tie. He or she also has influence over the committee’s agenda and over how meetings are directed, with the position also bringing prestige.

All government bills and proposals by members of parliament first go through one of the committees before they can be put to the main chamber for a vote. The committee adopts a position on the proposal and although the final decision rests with the 349 members of the main chamber, they usually vote for the committee’s position since the make-up of their members represent the parties in parliament.

Although chair positions give them a procedural advantage, the Sweden Democrats won’t have unlimited power over their committees, since as I said, the other parties have seats too and their votes count equally.

The main benefit for the Sweden Democrats is rather the soft power it gives them. The chair is the face of the parliamentary committee, and these senior roles will force the other parties to take them seriously.

Another aspect to bear in mind is that they’ll have enough seats on each committee that they will have a key kingmaker role where they can side either with the government or the opposition – giving them fairly significant negotiating power when it comes to future legislation.

In other news, the Swedish parliament last week re-elected the popular Andreas Norlén as speaker, it’s been taking much longer than usual to get a work permit (here’s why) and foreigners are calling for the Migration Agency to issue special visas to allow those affected by renewal delays to leave Sweden and return, the Nord Stream 2 pipeline has stopped leaking gas, and households in Sweden are starting to feel the economic squeeze.

In the latest episode of our Sweden in Focus podcast, host Paul O’Mahony is joined by Handelsbanken chief economist Johan Löf, as well as The Local’s Becky Waterton, Richard Orange and James Savage.

Many thanks to everyone who’s got in touch lately with your thoughts and feedback about Sweden Elects. I’m happy it’s useful to you. If you have any questions about Swedish politics, you’re always welcome to get in touch.

Best wishes,

Emma

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 as a newsletter in their email inbox each week. Just click on this “newsletters” option or visit the menu bar.

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