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Swedish opposition leader Ulf Kristersson tasked with trying to form a government

Parliamentary speaker Andreas Norlén has given Moderate Party leader Ulf Kristersson the task of trying to form a government, after centre-left Prime Minister Stefan Löfven resigned on Monday following a no-confidence vote.

Swedish opposition leader Ulf Kristersson tasked with trying to form a government
Moderate Party leader Ulf Kristersson on his way to talks with the speaker earlier on Tuesday. Photo: Claudio Bresciani/TT

Kristersson, whose party falls on the right of the political spectrum, has been named as sonderingsperson.This means he has the task of speaking to other party leaders to see if he is able to get enough support for a government, either through forming a coalition or by opposition parties agreeing to tolerate, or not vote against, the proposed government.

Norlén said he would give Kristersson three days for this task, reporting back to the speaker on Friday, but at this stage it would be possible to request an extension if needed.

Asked why he chose the Moderate leader, the speaker said: “He is the leader of the largest party in the group which voted against Stefan Löfven. It is reasonable that he gets a chance to see which opportunities he has to form a government.” 

He added: “There were more [party leaders] who pointed to Kristersson than to any other form of government. I thought this was a good reason for making the decision.”

Norlén emphasised his aim of keeping the process as swift as possible, saying that he plans to have one vote on a prime ministerial candidate every week until the process is completed.

Only four such votes can take place before a snap election can be called, which means that by the end of July, Sweden should either have a new government in place or have announced a snap election if this timetable is kept to. This is a far cry from the four-month process of talks between the parties and the speaker that took place after the September 2018 election before a new government could be formed.

The seats in parliament are divided the same way they were after that election, but the political landscape has changed nonetheless.

The Liberal Party, which along with the Centre Party agreed to support Löfven’s government in exchange for some policy influence, have now switched sides and said they will pursue a right-wing government led by Kristersson. And the reason the vote of no confidence against Löfven was passed was because the Left Party said it could not support one of the proposals pushed through by the Centre Party. 

Even with the support of the Liberals along with the Christian Democrats and far-right Sweden Democrats, the Moderates would be one vote short of obtaining a parliamentary majority, leaving them to rely on votes from MPs in the Centre Party, whose leader has ruled out supporting a government that relies on the Sweden Democrats.

If Kristersson is not successful in forming a government backed by a majority of parliamentarians, another round of talks with the speaker will begin and Norlén will name a new sonderingsperson.

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SWEDEN ELECTS

Sweden Elects: How powerful are the Sweden Democrats now?

The Local's editor Emma Löfgren explains how Sweden's parliamentary committees work – and the role the Sweden Democrats will play in them.

Sweden Elects: How powerful are the Sweden Democrats now?

Hej,

The speaker of parliament has given Ulf Kristersson, leader of the conservative Moderates and the likely next prime minister of Sweden, October 12th as a deadline to conclude his government negotiations.

If Kristersson comes up with a viable proposal for a ruling coalition, the speaker will put that proposal to parliament within four days. Chances are Sweden will have its new right-wing government by mid-October.

What will that government look like? Most likely, it will consist of at least the Moderates and the Christian Democrats. Rumours have it Kristersson is hoping to bring the Liberals into the governmental fold, and it is unlikely that the far-right Sweden Democrats will be part of the government.

But anyone who thinks the latter means they will be left on the sidelines is mistaken. They will have demanded significant concessions in order to support Kristersson’s government (and especially to make way for the Liberals) from parliament, and judging from recent news, they got them.

In a joint press release last week, the right wing – the Moderates, Christian Democrats, Liberals and Sweden Democrats – said they had reached a deal on how to share responsibility for their parliamentary committees.

There are 15 committees in the Swedish parliament, seats on which are held by members of parliament, with larger parties getting more seats as well as more high-ranking roles such as chair and deputy chair.

The right wing is after this election entitled to 16 chair and deputy chair roles, and the Sweden Democrats will get half of those, the parties agreed. The key thing that many political pundits were keeping an eye on was which committees, as that tells us a lot about how far they got in their negotiations with the other right-wing parties. The answer: far.

The Sweden Democrats will get to chair the Justice, Foreign Affairs, Labour Market, and Industry and Trade Committees – all heavyweight committees. 

Their most high-profile appointment is Richard Jomshof, one of the most senior Sweden Democrats who in the run-up to the election gave an anti-Islam speech (not the first time). He will chair the Justice Committee.

The Moderates will chair the Finance and Social Insurance Committees (plus the EU Committee), the Christian Democrats will chair the Health and Welfare Committee, and the Liberals will chair the Education Committee.

On the other side, the left-wing parties will get to chair the Defence, Taxation, Constitution, Civil Affairs, Transport and Communications, Environment and Agriculture, and Cultural Affairs Committees.

So what exactly do the parliamentary committees do, and how much influence will the Sweden Democrats now have over legislation?

The votes of every member of the committees count equally (there are at least 15 members on every committee, representing the various parties from left to right), and the chair gets the final vote if there’s a tie. He or she also has influence over the committee’s agenda and over how meetings are directed, with the position also bringing prestige.

All government bills and proposals by members of parliament first go through one of the committees before they can be put to the main chamber for a vote. The committee adopts a position on the proposal and although the final decision rests with the 349 members of the main chamber, they usually vote for the committee’s position since the make-up of their members represent the parties in parliament.

Although chair positions give them a procedural advantage, the Sweden Democrats won’t have unlimited power over their committees, since as I said, the other parties have seats too and their votes count equally.

The main benefit for the Sweden Democrats is rather the soft power it gives them. The chair is the face of the parliamentary committee, and these senior roles will force the other parties to take them seriously.

Another aspect to bear in mind is that they’ll have enough seats on each committee that they will have a key kingmaker role where they can side either with the government or the opposition – giving them fairly significant negotiating power when it comes to future legislation.

In other news, the Swedish parliament last week re-elected the popular Andreas Norlén as speaker, it’s been taking much longer than usual to get a work permit (here’s why) and foreigners are calling for the Migration Agency to issue special visas to allow those affected by renewal delays to leave Sweden and return, the Nord Stream 2 pipeline has stopped leaking gas, and households in Sweden are starting to feel the economic squeeze.

In the latest episode of our Sweden in Focus podcast, host Paul O’Mahony is joined by Handelsbanken chief economist Johan Löf, as well as The Local’s Becky Waterton, Richard Orange and James Savage.

Many thanks to everyone who’s got in touch lately with your thoughts and feedback about Sweden Elects. I’m happy it’s useful to you. If you have any questions about Swedish politics, you’re always welcome to get in touch.

Best wishes,

Emma

Sweden Elects is a 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 as a newsletter in their email inbox each week. Just click on this “newsletters” option or visit the menu bar.

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