Stefan Löfven expected to be voted back in as Swedish prime minister

Stefan Löfven expected to be voted back in as Swedish prime minister
Social Democrat leader Stefan Löfven and parliamentary speaker Andreas Norlén head to a press conference. Photo: Anders Wiklund/TT
Centre-left Social Democrat leader Stefan Löfven is expected to be voted back in as prime minister by Sweden's parliament on Friday, ending a 131-day political deadlock.

Löfven may have won a victory, but the former welder emerges weakened by months of wrangling after September's election forced him to concede to centre-right parties to win their support.

The parliamentary vote, attended by The Local, will take place at 9am after parliamentary speaker Andreas Norlén formally nominated Löfven as prime minister on Wednesday.

Friday's vote began with the leaders of each party giving short statements explaining how they planned to vote and why.

Löfven's minority centre-left government, comprising his Social Democrats and the Greens, will be one of the weakest in Sweden in 70 years, with just 32.7 percent of voters having cast ballots for the two parties.

Löfven has secured the support of the Centre and Liberal parties – until now members of the four-party centre-right opposition Alliance – with whom he has signed a political policy document.

A few notable points from the 16-page deal include extending Sweden's temporary migration law for another two years, reintroducing a flight tax which was scrapped in the autumn budget, abolishing rent controls on newly built apartments, and introducing language and civics tests as a requirement for Swedish citizenship.

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Photo: Anders Wiklund/TT

Together, the four parties hold 167 of 349 seats in parliament, eight fewer than the 175 that constitutes a majority in the Riksdag.

In order to pass Friday's vote, and to pass future legislation, Löfven will therefore rely on the ex-communist Left Party's 28 MPs for support. That party was excluded by the new agreement, but its leader said it would still allow Löfven to govern in order to avoid a conservative government backed by the Sweden Democrats.

Any potential Swedish government does not need a majority of MPs to vote in its favour in order to govern; the system of negative parliamentarism 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.

In the legislative elections in September, the nationalist and anti-immigration Sweden Democrats came in third with 17.6 percent of votes, putting it in a position to act as kingmaker.

In the long weeks that followed, both Löfven and the head of the right-wing opposition Alliance, Ulf Kristersson, failed repeatedly to form a government. Neither were able to build a majority and lawmakers rejected both of their nominations for prime minister.

“For a long time Swedish politics was dominated by a two-bloc conflict. After the rise of the Sweden Democrats, a three-block situation occurred. Now the situation has changed dramatically,” political scientist Olof Petersson told AFP.

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

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

Löfven was the most shrewd in the post-election negotiations, analysts said.

“Löfven has reached his strategic goals: to remain in power and to split up the non-socialist Alliance opposition,” Petersson said.

But the deal between the coalition and two centre-right parties contains “worrisome” elements for the left wing, in particular tax policies that “risk increasing inequalities in Swedish society,” said Gothenburg University political science professor Ulf Bjereld, who is affiliated with the Social

The Left Party warned that while it would let Löfven get elected, it was ready to topple the new administration if it went ahead with its proposed plan to ease Sweden's strict labour laws and introduce market rates for rents.

Petersson said the threat was an empty one, because it would be “political suicide” to carry it out.
The Moderates and Christian Democrats together hold just 92 seats.

“At least 35 MPs are required to table a motion of non-confidence. The Left only controls 28 seats,” the analyst said.

“It would be political suicide if the Left reached out to the conservative Moderates, the Christian Democrats or the Sweden Democrats to secure the 35 seats necessary.” 


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