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.