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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Swedish political parties call for ban on conversion therapy

Multiple political parties in Sweden's parliament want to ban so-called conversion therapy, which aims to change young LGBT+ individuals’ sexual orientation.

Swedish political parties call for ban on conversion therapy

The Liberals have campaigned for a ban for some time, and a motion has now been submitted to parliament by the Social Democrats. Now, the Moderates and the Centre Party are joining them in calling for conversion therapy to be made illegal, Sweden’s public broadcaster Radio Ekot reports.

“The entire idea is that homosexuality is an illness which can and should be treated. That is, obviously, completely incorrect and a very out-of-place view in a modern society,” Centre’s spokesperson on legal issues, Johan Hedin, told the radio.

Conversion therapy consists of subjecting LGBT+ individuals to pressure or force to hide their sexuality or gender identity. According to MUCF, the Swedish Agency for Youth and Civil Society, it occurs “to a not insignificant extent” in Sweden.

“We think there should be a ban. Sweden should be a tolerant country, where nonsense like this quite simply shouldn’t be allowed to happen,” Johan Forssell, the Moderate’s legal spokesperson told Radio Ekot.