Sweden’s Deputy Prime Minister to quit government and politics

Sweden's Deputy Prime Minister and Environment Minister Isabella Lövin announced on Wednesday she is quitting the government and her role as co-leader of the Green Party.

Sweden's Deputy Prime Minister to quit government and politics
Isabella Lövin. Photo: Magnus Andersson/TT

“I intend to stay on and work at full speed until a new, female spokesperson is in place. After that I will leave politics. I think it is the best thing for me and for the party,” Lövin told the Dagens Nyheter newspaper.

Lövin joined Prime Minister Stefan Löfven's Social Democrat-Green coalition government in 2014 and replaced Åsa Romson as spokesperson of the Green Party in 2016, a role she currently shares with Financial Markets and Housing Minister Per Bolund.

The Green Party traditionally has two leaders, a man and a woman, and the party will now start the process of finding Lövin's replacement with the hope of electing a new leader early next year.

Lövin said her term as spokesperson would run out during the government's term of office after the next election in 2022, and she said she had to decide now whether to quit and give her replacement plenty of time to make their mark on the party and Swedish politics before the election, or stick it out for another few years.

Then former journalist and member of the European Parliament (2009-2014) wrote in an article in the Aftonbladet tabloid on Wednesday that she had then decided to leave the world of top-level politics and “have more time left for writing and for my family”.

Lövin has not drawn as much criticism as her predecessor as leader of the Green Party, but the party has been struggling in the polls lately, with only 4.1 percent telling a major survey this spring that they would vote for the Green Party if an election were held today, meaning it would barely be above the threshold for parliament.

The Green Party for the first time joined government in 2014, and has pushed through several green reforms such as a new climate law. But it has also clashed with the much larger Social Democrats on issues such as migration, with talks about a new migration policy breaking down after the party threatened to quit government.

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Sweden Elects: The latest political news as the election campaign kicks off

What's Sweden talking about this week? In The Local's Sweden Elects newsletter, editor Emma Löfgren rounds up some of the main talking points ahead of the Swedish election.

Sweden Elects: The latest political news as the election campaign kicks off

In an interview that could have jeopardised his job a decade ago, Social Democrat Immigration Minister Anders Ygeman’s suggestion in DN that there should be a 50 percent cap on non-Nordic immigrants in troubled areas of Swedish cities showed how the debate has shifted in recent years.

That said, his comments did not go without criticism. The Left Party slammed them as “racist”, the Greens and the Centre Party also criticised them, and so did the Moderates and some within the Social Democrats.

Ygeman himself said that he had been misunderstood, that he had never meant it as an actual proposal, and that factors such as crime and unemployment were far more important in terms of integration.

“But of course segregation is not just class-based, it also has an ethnic dimension. If you have areas where almost everyone is from other countries, it’s harder to learn Swedish, and if it’s harder to learn Swedish, it’s harder to get a job,” he told public broadcaster SVT.

What do you think? Email me if you want to share your thoughts.

Campaign posters and a new poll

The centre-left Social Democrats and the Moderates, the largest right-wing opposition party, both unveiled their campaign posters last week, which I guess means that the summer holiday lull is officially over and the election campaign is now definitely under way. Just over a month to go.

It’s interesting that the Social Democrats are clearly trying to turn this into a “presidential” style campaign, taking advantage of Prime Minister Magdalena Andersson’s overwhelming popularity compared to the Moderates’ Ulf Kristersson, whose reception among voters is lukewarm.

A poll by the DN newspaper and Ipsos a month ago suggested that 37 percent of voters want to see Andersson as prime minister, compared to 22 percent who preferred Kristersson (12 percent preferred the anti-immigration Sweden Democrats’ leader Jimmie Åkesson, and the other party leaders did not get more than four percent each).

Andersson is in the unique position where voters like her way more than they like her party – a new opinion poll by Demoskop suggests that 28.7 percent would vote for the Social Democrats if the election was held today (the Moderates would get 20.3 percent). The same poll has all the right-wing parties with a slight majority compared to the left-wing parties.

Anyway, the Social Democrats’ campaign posters cover pensions, schools (specifically, limiting profit-making free schools), crime and law and order. Climate change is conspicuously absent, but a party spokesperson told reporters it will be more prominent in its social media campaigns.

When Kristersson, on the other hand, spoke at his party’s event to kick off their election campaign, he emphasised how he’s got a viable coalition on his side – a jibe at the Social Democrats, who will struggle to get their partners (specifically the Centre and Left parties) to collaborate.

He also reiterated his praise for the Sweden Democrats, and The Local asked several experts if the Moderates are the same party that fought the 2018 election, when Kristersson promised Holocaust survivor Hédi Fried he would not cooperate with the Sweden Democrats after the election.

Election pledges

The Local’s Becky Waterton has looked at the election pledges of Sweden’s four main parties, the Social Democrats, Moderates, Sweden Democrats and Centre Party. Click here to read her guide, it’s a really useful roundup.

And what about Covid? Is Sweden’s handling of the pandemic not going to be a talking point in this election? No, at least not if the parties have their way. The Social Democrats run the government, but most of the regions (who are in charge of healthcare) are run by right-wing coalitions. So from a strictly realpolitik perspective, no party is able to attack another without putting themselves at risk of becoming a target. Best forget about it.

In other political news…

… a Sweden Democrat member of parliament has been accused of sending unsolicited dick pics to women, the Moderates want to legalise altruistic surrogacy in Sweden, the Christian Democrats want a national scheme to improve maternity care, the Liberals want to make it harder for people with a criminal record to become Swedish citizens, and Centre Party leader Annie Lööf hit the campaign trail just before the weekend by pledging to reject any proposal for raised taxes after the election.

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