Swedish prime minister resigns to trigger search for new government

Sweden's Prime Minister Stefan Löfven announced his resignation on Monday, which means talks will now take place between the different political parties to find a new government, avoiding a snap election.

Swedish prime minister resigns to trigger search for new government
Prime Minister Stefan Löfven said the decision of whether to resign or call a snap election was the hardest one he'd had to make. Photo: Stina Stjernkvist/TT

Löfven had a deadline of midnight tonight to announce the decision after his government lost a parliamentary vote of no confidence last Monday. The Social Democrat, whose governments have already survived six no-confidence motions, became the first Swedish prime minister to lose such a vote.

“This is the most difficult political decision I have taken,” he said at the press conference announcing his  resignation. This means he will now lead a transitional government, while the speaker of parliament carries out talks with political party leaders aimed at forming a new government.

Löfven said that his priority had been making the choice that was “in Sweden’s best interest”, and that this meant not calling a snap election during the ongoing Covid-19 pandemic.

“With one year left until the regular election, with regard to the extraordinary situation which the country is in with an ongoing pandemic and the certain challenges this would bring – a snap election is not what is best for Sweden,” he said.

“The best argument I could see for a snap election was a democratic test of a new parliamentary landscape,” the prime minister explained, referring to the right-wing bloc’s growing openness to collaborate with the far-right Sweden Democrats.

Löfven’s resignation triggers a so-called talmansrunda (literally ‘speaker round’), a series of talks between the speaker of parliament and the leaders of Sweden’s political parties aimed at finding a government that can command a parliamentary majority.

This could see the Social Democrat return to his job, or the post could go to a member of the opposition if they are able to form their own majority. If the talks are unsuccessful, fresh elections will be needed after all. 

Löfven said he believed it would be possible to form a new government without sending Swedes to the polls. “I cannot guarantee it but that is the picture I have in front of me, that it’s possible. We all still need to contribute,” he said.

The no-confidence vote was put forward by the far-right Sweden Democrats, but was passed primarily because the Left Party — traditionally a close ally of the Social Democrat government — refused to accept the government’s proposals on changes to rental laws.

Löfven criticised the party in comments on Monday, saying they held responsibility for the current situation. “They voted down the government without having their own alternative government proposition,” he said.

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Riksdag Speaker to begin talks to form Swedish government on Monday

The Speaker of the Riksdag will begin talks with the leaders of seven parties to form a new government.

Riksdag Speaker to begin talks to form Swedish government on Monday

On Monday, the Speaker of the Riksdag, Andreas Norlén, will begin one-on-one talks with the leaders of seven Riksdag parties to form a new government following Sweden’s historic election last week.

Following the talks, it is expected that Moderate leader Ulf Kristersson will be tasked with forming a new government. Kristersson has already announced that negotiations with the Christian Democrats, the Liberals and the Sweden Democrats are already underway. 

But Kristersson has not yet given a clear indication of which parties he aims to include in a government, besides the Moderates and Christian Democrats.

READ MORE: ELECTION LATEST: A roundup of most recent events following Sweden’s historic vote

READ MORE: What have the Sweden Democrats learned from other Nordic far-right parties?

Norlén will, starting on Monday morning, have individual conversations with the leaders of seven of the Riksdag’s eight parties. The Speaker spoke with outgoing Prime Minister Magdalena Andersson when she submitted her resignation on Thursday.

Norlén has not indicated a timetable for the order or duration of the talks.

The Speaker is planning a press conference at 2:30 p.m on Monday afternoon, where it is expected that he will announce that Kristersson has been tasked with trying to form a new government.