Stefan Löfven welcomes start of ‘historic’ era in Swedish politics

Stefan Löfven addressed the Swedish parliament for the first time on Monday after being voted back in as prime minister a record 131 days after the election.

Stefan Löfven welcomes start of 'historic' era in Swedish politics
Stefan Löfven speaking in parliament on Monday. Photo: Jessica Gow/TT

Social Democrat leader Löfven, who only managed to secure reelection after striking a controversial deal with his former centre-right rivals in parliament, described the day as “the start of a historic collaboration”.

After tough negotiations, the Liberals and the Centre Party last week chose to throw their support behind Löfven instead of their right-wing allies. They argued it was in order to avoid a government that would inadvertently be forced to rely on the far-right nationalist Sweden Democrats in parliament.

“All around Europe, extreme right-wing movements are spreading. In several countries, forces with an antidemocratic agenda have made it all the way to government. But in Sweden we stand up for the equal value of all people. We are choosing a different path,” Löfven told parliament on Monday.

Sweden has never before gone this long without a government. A tight September 9th election meant the parties were long unable to find enough common ground, until the Social Democrats, Greens, Centre and Liberals struck a deal allowing Löfven to govern in exchange for slightly more right-wing policies.

Some of the proposals in the deal include abolishing rent controls on newly built apartments and introducing language and civics tests as a requirement for becoming a Swedish citizen.

“Setting high standards for people and giving them a lot of opportunities helps them to grow,” said Löfven.

READ ALSO: What does Sweden's government deal mean for internationals?

He said that Sweden would not seek to join Natp, despite the Centre and Liberals both supporting Nato membership. But he added that “if another Nordic or EU country suffers a disaster or an attack, Sweden will not remain passive. We expect these countries to act in the same way if Sweden is similarly affected.”

Speaking about EU policies, he said that Sweden would work to ensure that Brexit “is accomplished in an orderly way. We are prepared to handle various scenarios.”

POLITICS Q&A: What happens now and how did we get there?

As The Local has previously reported, the deal also includes extending Sweden's temporary migration law for another two years. “Sweden's reception of refugees must be sustainable in the long term,” said Löfven.

Despite the cross-bloc deal, Löfven's government is likely to be one of the weakest in recent Swedish history, facing challenges both from the conservative parties and from his colleagues on the left.

The Left Party lent its backing only reluctantly, and its leader said repeatedly that his party is “prepared to bring down this government” if they go beyond the “clear boundaries” he said he had outlined to Löfven.

In particular, that means that if Löfven puts forward proposals supporting the Centre and Liberals' policies on deregulating the housing and labour market, the government could be in crisis.

Löfven also presented his new cabinet on Monday. We will have more for you on shortly on who the new ministers are. In the meantime, you can read an English translation of today's speech here.

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What’s the Swedish Christian Democrats’ abortion contract all about?

Ebba Busch, leader of Sweden's Christian Democrats on Monday presented an "abortion contract", which she wants all of Sweden's party leaders to sign. What's going on?

What's the Swedish Christian Democrats' abortion contract all about?

What’s happened? 

Ebba Busch, leader of Sweden’s Christian Democrat party, called a press conference on Monday in which she presented a document that she called “an abortion contract”, which was essentially a pledge to safeguard the right of women in Sweden to have an abortion.  

“There is room for signatures from all eight party leaders,” she said. “I have already signed on behalf of the Christian Democrats.” 

What does the so-called “abortion contract” say? 

The document itself is fairly uncontroversial.

It states simply that Sweden’s law on abortion dates back to 1974, and that it grants women the right to an abortion up until the 18th week of pregnancy, with women seeking abortions later in their pregnancy required to get permission from the National Board of Health and Welfare. 

“Those of us who have signed this document support Sweden’s abortion legislation and promise to defend it if it comes under attack from forces both within our country and from outside,” the document reads.  

Why have the Christian Democrats produced it? 

The decision of the US Supreme Court to overturn Roe vs Wade, and so allow US states to ban abortion has aroused strong feelings in Sweden, as elsewhere, and Busch is seeking to send a strong signal to distance her own Christian party from the US religious right. 

Abortion has been a recurring issue within the Christian Democrats with several politicians and party members critical of abortion. 

Lars Adaktusson, a Christian Democrat MP, was found by the Dagens Nyheter newspaper to have voted against abortion 22 times when he was a member of the European parliament. 

The party has also in the past campaigned for the right of midwives and other medical professionals who are ethically opposed to abortion not to have to take part in the procedure. 

So why aren’t all the other party leaders signing the document? 

Sweden’s governing Social Democrats, and their Green Party allies, dismissed the contract as a political gimmick designed to help the Christian Democrats distance themselves from elements of their own party critical of abortion. 

“It would perhaps be good if Ebba Busch did some homework within her own party to check that there’s 100 percent support for Sweden’s abortion legislation,” Magdalena Andersson, Sweden’s prime minister, said. “That feels like a more important measure than writing contracts between party leaders and trying to solve it that way.”  

In a debate on Swedish television, Green Party leader Märta Stenevi argued that it would be much more significant if Busch’s own MPs and MEPs all signed the document. 

It wasn’t other party leaders who needed to show commitment to abortion legislation, but “her own MPs, MEPs, and not least her proposed government partners in the Sweden Democrats and even some within the Moderate Party”. 

She said it made her “very very worried” to see that the Christian Democrats needed such a contract. “That’s why I see all this more as a clear sign that we need to move forward with protecting the right to abortion in the constitution,” she said. 

How have the other right-wing parties reacted? 

The other right-wing parties have largely backed Busch, although it’s unclear if any other party leaders are willing to actually sign the document. 

Tobias Billström, the Moderates’ group parliamentary leader, retweeted a tweet from Johan Paccamonti, a Stockholm regional politician with the Moderate Party, which criticised the Social Democrats for not signing it, however. 

“It seems to be more important to blow up a pretend conflict than to sign the Christian Democrats’ contract or look at the issue of [including abortion rights in] the constitution, like the Moderates, Liberals and Centre Party want to,” Paccamonti wrote. 

The Liberal Party on Sunday proposed protecting abortion rights in the Swedish constitution, a proposal which has since been backed by the Moderate party and the Centre Party