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Swedish government collapse: So what happens now?

The Swedish government collapsed on Monday after Prime Minister Stefan Löfven lost a confidence vote against him. But what happens next?

Swedish government collapse: So what happens now?
Prime Minister Stefan Löfven (R) and some of his ministers in parliament on Monday ahead of the vote. Photo: Claudio Bresciani/TT

It might take some time before we get a definite answer to that question, because the Prime Minister Stefan Löfven has seven days to make a decision.

Then, there are basically two possible options: he could call a snap election, or resign, sparking a new round of negotiations between the political parties aimed at forming a new government. 

Negotiations would be managed by the speaker of parliament, Andreas Norlén, who would start a so-called talmansrunda.

This is a political process where the speaker holds talks with all party leaders to work out who’s got the best chance at forming a government.

There is no time limit on how long this can take (after the September 2018 election the negotiations took more than four months) but there is a limit on how many prime ministerial candidates the speaker can propose: after four candidates, a snap election must be called to break the deadlock.

The seats in parliament are divided the same way they were last time, so the big question is whether any of the parties have changed their mind on which side they would support.

Löfven’s minority government was based on a 72-point deal with the conservative Centre and Liberal parties. One of those points related to introducing market rents on a limited scale by potentially allowing landlords to freely set rents for newly constructed apartments, and that’s what led to the current crisis. The Left Party was not included in the deal and strongly opposes market rents, but its support was needed to prop up the government. 

But don’t rule out Löfven returning. There is a possibility he would be successful in a talmansrunda, if he can gain the support of the Centre, Liberal and Left parties again.

However, the Liberal Party have recently said they would rather see a right-wing government, even if that means some cooperation with the far-right Sweden Democrats. 

If a snap election is called, either shortly after the no-confidence vote or after unsuccessful attempts to form a new government through the talmansrunda process, it needs to happen no later than three months after its announcement, so around September 2021.

Recent political polls show that Löfven’s Social Democrats would get fewer votes in a fresh election; what’s more, the Liberals, currently acting as a support party for the government, have said they would campaign for a conservative government in new elections. But those polls also showed both the Liberals and the Green Party below the four percent threshold needed to get representation in parliament.

If there is a September 2021 election, the election already scheduled for September 2022 would still go ahead as planned, due to laws about fixed terms of office in Sweden.

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For members


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