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TIMELINE: The key events that led to the Swedish government’s collapse

Sweden could be facing snap elections after the prime minister was lost an unprecedented no-confidence vote. But after a fraught three years in office, is the biggest surprise the fact that the minority government hung on for so long?

TIMELINE: The key events that led to the Swedish government's collapse
Left Party leader Nooshi Dadgostar speaks in parliament ahead of the vote. Photo: Claudio Bresciani/TT

Here’s a look at how we got to this point.

2018

September 9th: Swedish parliamentary elections.

The results are too close to call, but indicate that no one party, and neither the centre-left coalition (Social Democrats, Green Party, Left Party) nor the centre-right Alliance (Moderate Party, Liberal Party, Centre Party, Christian Democrats) have won the 175 parliamentary seats needed to form a majority government. Meanwhile, support rises for the far-right Sweden Democrats (SD), albeit not as significantly as some polls had suggested it might do. 

Moderate leader Ulf Kristersson demands that incumbent Prime Minister Stefan Löfven steps down, but Löfven wants to await the final election results.

September 10th: Liberal Party leader Jan Björklund announces that he will not work with the SD in any way and that any cooperation with them will end the four-party Alliance.

September 25th: Parliament votes to remove Löfven from the prime minister post. SD joins the Alliance in voting him down.

Löfven hands in his resignation but the speaker asks him to stay on as prime minister in a caretaker government.

October 2nd: The parliamentary speaker names Moderates leader Kristersson as sonderingsperson, giving him the task of holding talks with other party leaders to try to form a government proposal that will be supported by parliament. This is abandoned 12 days later.

October 15th: Löfven is given the task of forming a government, abandoned two weeks later.

November 14th: After Kristersson is given another shot to try to form a government, he is rejected as prime ministerial candidate by a parliamentary vote. Both the Centre and Liberal parties vote against him.

November 15th: Centre Party leader Annie Lööf is given the task to act as sonderingsperson to try to break the political deadlock. She abandons the bid on the 22nd.

November 27th-28th: First the Centre Party, then the Liberals, announce they are open to Löfven becoming PM if he agrees to a set of policies that would move his potential government further to the right.

December 13th: Parliament rejects the budget put forward by the caretaker government, and the budget proposal from the Moderates and Christian Democrats wins a majority of votes.

Although it’s possible to make some changes to the budget in spring, certain decisions such as changes to income tax are fixed for a year, so the result is a blow to the centre-left.

December 14th: Stefan Löfven is rejected by parliament in the vote on his candidacy as PM.

2019

January 13th: A deal between the Social Democrats, Green Party, Centre Party and Liberal Party is confirmed. Even with the backing of all these four parties, it requires support from the Left Party’s 28 MPs in order to be passed by parliament, and Left leader Jonas Sjöstedt initially says his party will not support it.

January 16th: Sweden’s Left Party decides to abstain in another vote on Stefan Löfven as prime minister after getting reassurance they will not wholly lose their political influence on issues not covered by the four-party deal. This means Löfven has enough votes to become prime minister (again), and parliamentary speaker Andreas Norlén formally nominates him in the Riksdag chamber.

January 18th: Social Democrat leader Stefan Löfven is voted back in as prime minister.

June 28th: Nyamko Sabuni replaces Jan Björklund as leader of the Liberal Party.

November 28th: Sweden’s parliament votes in favour of the first budget created as part of the January Agreement. As such, it includes some more right-wing policies than would be expected from the Social Democrat-Green government, such as tax cuts for high earners .

December 4th: The leaders of the Sweden Democrats and Moderates announce their first meeting, shortly after the former reaches a record high in one opinion poll.

2020

During the spring, there is to some extent political peace between the parties which meet for cross-party talks on the country’s coronavirus strategy. But in a party leaders’ debate in June, there are signs this peace is thawing, with Christian Democrat leader Ebba Busch accusing the government of “deliberately” allowing the infection to spread, while Moderate leader Ulf Kristersson criticises the government as too weak in its decision-making.

June 3rd: The government announces the results of a review into some of Sweden’s major hiring and firing laws, one of the points agreed under the “January Deal”. These are welcomed by centre-right parties and businesses, but criticised trade unions and even the Social Democratic Prime Minister. The Left Party vows to put forward a vote of no confidence if the government pushes ahead with the changes. Ultimately this does not come to fruition; the government returns to negotiations with unions, and a year later is able to present a set of employment proposals that have a broad consensus.

June 26th: The Social Democrats meet with the Moderates, Christian Democrats, Centre and Liberal parties to discuss migration policy, excluding junior government coalition party the Green Party. This prompts crisis talks within the Greens, with some party board members in favour of quitting the government if the Social Democrats side with right-wing parties over them. Ultimately, the five-party talks collapse.

October 31st: Nooshi Dadgostar replaces Jonas Sjöstedt as leader of the Left Party.

2021

March 28th: The Liberal party votes in favour of campaigning as part of a right-wing alliance in the 2022 general election, approving a proposal from leader Nyamko Sabuni. More controversial is their vote in favour of the party’s leadership negotiating with the populist Sweden Democrats on policy, and even involving them in budget negotiations. 

May 2nd: The Moderate Party, Christian Democrats, Liberal Party, and Sweden Democrats put forward a set of migration policy proposals, the first proposal to be signed jointly by the four parties.

June 2nd: A major party preference survey shows that both the Green Party and Liberal Party would fall below the four percent threshold needed for parliamentary representation if a vote were held today.

June 4th: The government sets out proposals to introduce market rents on newly constructed apartments. The Social Democrats are not entirely happy about the proposal, which is one of the points in the January Deal.

June 15th: Left Party leader Nooshi Dadgostar gives the government 48 hours to scrap market rent proposals or restart negotiations with the Swedish Tenants’ Union, saying her party will start a vote of no confidence otherwise.

June 17th: Although the government agrees to speak to the Swedish Tenants’ Union, the Left Party does not back down. It does not have enough MPs to submit the no-confidence motion alone, and the Moderate and Christian Democrat parties refuse to sign it. The Left Party does not want the support of the Sweden Democrats, but the latter party (which has enough MPs) submits its own motion of no confidence.

June 21st: Stefan Löfven loses a vote of no confidence with 181 MPs in favour of the motion, as the Left Party join with the Sweden Democrats, Moderates and Christian Democrats. This means Löfven has seven days to either call snap elections or resign, kicking off a new round of talks between parties to form a government.

June 23rd: After a few days of intensive talks between different combinations of parties, the Centre Party’s leader announces she is prepared to drop the demand for market rents. In exchange, she wants updates to the January Agreement between the government, Centre and Liberal Parties, and she maintains she would rather see a snap election called than work directly with the Left Party. 

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SWEDEN ELECTS

Sweden Elects: PM Andersson bids to reclaim patriotism and the big election issues

Prime Minister Magdalena Andersson mentioned Sweden and Swedishness no fewer than 70 times in her speech at the country's largest political event, writes The Local's editor Emma Löfgren in our new column Sweden Elects – which launches this week with just over two months to go until the election.

Sweden Elects: PM Andersson bids to reclaim patriotism and the big election issues

Sweden Elects is a new 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.

——

“I love Sweden and I’m proud to be Swedish.”

If you want to win the hearts and minds of Swedes, talk about the loveliness of long summer nights, barbecues and wild swimming, and do so from a stage in one of the most picturesque towns in Sweden.

Prime Minister Magdalena Andersson understood that much when she last night, on the first day of Sweden’s annual political festival Almedalen Week, gave a speech that did not shy away from invoking some of the most proudly Swedish of perceived Swedish features and values – everything from fields of daisies to trust, solidarity and hard work.

It was a speech clearly designed to reclaim patriotism from the nationalists ahead of the September 11th election, with a grand total of 71 mentions of “Swedish” or “Sweden” in half an hour. There was so much talk about Swedish values that it felt at times like those forced-collective notes you get in the laundry room: In this housing association we don’t leave fluff in the dryer. “In Sweden we don’t queue jump – not the supermarket queues and not in healthcare.”

“Sweden should be that Sweden which we love in every neighbourhood,” she said as she pledged to crack down on segregation and gang crime, one of three priority areas she has previously laid out for her government.

When it came to her other two priority areas, she spoke relatively briefly about the climate crisis but spent considerably more time on her third pledge to stop privatisation and profit-making in the welfare system – an issue where the Social Democrats have tried to firmly return to their traditional left-wing roots, while moving right on crime and punishment.

If you think I’m not talking much about specific policies, it’s because the speech didn’t address them much – but to be fair to the prime minister, an Almedalen speech at the height of summer rarely does. Andersson even said it herself: “What’s at stake in this election is more than different opinions on exactly how many prison cells we need (…) it’s which values should permeate Sweden. What kind of country we should be”.

But can a technocrat such as Andersson sell that vision? A former finance minister with a successful track record, she carried herself with the most gravitas when she spoke about the negative effects on the economy on the back of Russia’s invasion of Ukraine, referring to the high rate of inflation as “Putin prices”. As a leader who enjoys far higher confidence figures than her main opponent – Ulf Kristersson of the Moderate Party – she sounds more convincing when talking about the economy and specific policies than about her love for “Swedish nature, the right to roam, paddling silently over a quiet lake or smelling the coniferous forest”.

I’m curious to know how you as a reader of The Local feel when politicians talk about “Swedish values”. Do you feel included or excluded, does it depend on how they talk about them and if so, what makes the difference? Is it possible to paint a positive patriotic vision? We’re likely going to hear much more talk about Swedishness and values from other politicians in the coming days at Almedalen Week, so feel free to email your thoughts to me at [email protected] – if I’m allowed to share them on The Local or in a future newsletter, please state so clearly in your email and whether or not we may use your name.

You can read Andersson’s full speech in Swedish here and watch it here.

A more international election?

Andersson also spoke about Sweden’s military defence and landmark decision to join Nato (“it’s how we best defend Sweden’s freedom, democracy and our way of life”), and it was fitting that she did so during Almedalen Week, which is held in Visby on the island of Gotland.

Gotland, as you probably know, has received attention in Sweden and beyond in the past months. Strategically located in the Baltic Sea, the popular tourism island was at the centre of Sweden’s defence debate even before the invasion of Ukraine, and that’s even more the case now.

We can expect foreign policy to play a bigger part in this election campaign than it normally does, after Sweden and Finland last week struck a deal that moved them one step closer to joining Nato.

The most controversial point of that deal is Turkey’s claim that Sweden promised to extradite 73 individuals Turkey labelled “terrorists” in exchange for them allowing Sweden to join Nato. Swedish ministers have since said that it is in the hands of independent courts and Swedish citizens cannot in any case be deported, but Andersson has stopped short of fully denying it, and there is growing concern among Turkish and Kurdish refugees about the protection of non-citizens vs realpolitik.

It’s another example of how important it is that the voices of non-citizens are also heard in the political debate – there are a lot of people who live in Sweden, perhaps even intend to stay here permanently, who are just as invested in its future as everyone else, but aren’t yet formally citizens.

The election on September 11th is likely to be a crucial vote, with a win for the opposition bringing the anti-immigration Sweden Democrats their first chance to form national policy, and a win for the Social Democrats putting a fragile government in power for the third term in a row.

What’s next?

Almedalen Week is Sweden’s annual political festival. It takes place in the medieval town of Visby on the island of Gotland and is typically attended by around 40,000 people – 95 percent of them coming from outside Gotland. Interest has been falling in recent years, but with two months to go until the election, it’s a key event in all party leaders’ calendars.

The main highlights of the week will be the party leaders’ speeches at Almedalen, which will all be broadcast live at almedalsveckanplay.info. Sweden’s public broadcaster SVT will show them with expert comments immediately afterwards (in Swedish) – I had a look at their website and it should be possible to watch these wherever you are in the world.

Here’s when they’ll take the stage:

Monday (today), 11am. Moderate leader Ulf Kristersson.

Monday (today), 7pm. Left leader Nooshi Dadgostar.

Tuesday, 11am. Christian Democrat leader Ebba Busch.

Tuesday, 7pm. Liberal leader Johan Pehrson.

Wednesday, 11am. Sweden Democrat leader Jimmie Åkesson.

Wednesday, 7pm. Centre leader Annie Lööf.

Thursday, 11am. Green leader Per Bolund.

Also, don’t miss The Local’s special Almedalen episode of our Sweden in Focus podcast. Our publisher James Savage and acting editor Richard Orange have been mingling with politicians and pundits and will have the latest news for you in a special episode which will be released this week.

The Local will as always cover the Swedish election from the point of view of international citizens living in Sweden. In our Sweden Elects newsletter, I will take a look every week at the issues that affect you; the biggest talking points; the whos, hows and whys; and several extra features just for paying members (you can find out HERE how to receive the newsletter to your inbox with everything included, and membership also gives you unlimited access to all of The Local’s articles).

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