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Stefan Löfven voted back in as Swedish prime minister

Social Democrat leader Stefan Löfven will return to his role as Swedish prime minister, leading a Social Democrat-Green Party coalition after parliament voted on the proposal on Friday.

Stefan Löfven voted back in as Swedish prime minister
Stefan Löfven pictured during the parliamentary vote. Photo: Jessica Gow / TT

In order to pass the vote, for which The Local was present at Sweden's parliament, Löfven required fewer than 175 of Sweden's 349 MPs to vote against him.

He received the backing of his party and the Green Party (115 MPs in total), while most MPs from the Centre Party, Liberal Party and Left Party (77 MPs) abstained from the vote, although one Centre Party MP voted 'no'. The Moderate Party, Christian Democrats and Sweden Democrats all voted against.

FOR MEMBERS: What does Sweden's government deal mean for internationals?

This result was expected after after parliamentary speaker Andreas Norlén formally nominated Löfven as prime minister two days earlier. 

Löfven is set to announce the ministers in the new government on Monday.

Friday's vote was the third parliamentary vote on a prime minister candidate after the close election result left Sweden in political deadlock in September. There is no set time limit to form a government, but the number of prime ministerial votes that can be held is capped at four before a new election must be called.

Negotiations on forming a new government have taken longer than ever before in Sweden, and 131 days have now passed since the September election.

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, leaving no bloc with an outright majority. 

After Löfven lost an initial vote of confidence in parliament, the Moderates and Christian Democrats tried to form a government. However, this would have required accepting indirect support from the far-right Sweden Democrats, something the Centre and Liberal parties (part of a centre-right Alliance with the Moderates and Christian Democrats), refused to agree to.

But for a long time, they were unable to find enough common ground with the centre-left parties either. Löfven lost an earlier parliamentary vote after talks with the Centre and Liberals broke down.

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

The deadlock was finally broken when the Social Democrats and Greens reached an agreement with the Centre and Liberal parties, who will allow the two former parties to govern in exchange for slightly more right-wing economic policies.

Löfven also won the reluctant support, in the form of abstentions, from Sweden's Left Party. Having worked with the previous Social Democrat-Green government on their budget, they are now excluded from many negotiations under the four-party deal. The party's leader said he wasn't happy with this agreement, but would allow Löfven to govern after allegedly being promised some influence in other areas and in order to avoid a right-wing government.

Speaking to reporters after the vote, Löfven described the four-party deal as “historic”.

In a world with growing far-right nationalism, he said, “Sweden chooses a different path”.

Explaining why he had chosen to make a deal with former rivals, Löfven added: “You have to decide. You either make compromises, or everyone stays stuck in their corner and we don't get a government.”

A few notable points from the 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.

READ ALSO: Politics Q&A: What happens now and how did Sweden get here?

Politics Q&A: What happens now and how did Sweden get here?
Speaker of parliament Andreas Norlén and Prime Minister Stefan Löfven. Photo: Lars Pehrson/SvD/TT

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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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