Sweden’s Stefan Löfven given chance to form a government after opposition leader abandons bid

Stefan Löfven, who resigned as Swedish prime minister on Monday, has been tasked with trying to form a new government after opposition rival Ulf Kristersson, announced on Thursday that his own attempt had been unsuccessful.

Sweden's Stefan Löfven given chance to form a government after opposition leader abandons bid
After resigning from his post on Monday, Social Democrat Stefan Löfven now has a second chance to form a government. Photo: Claudio Bresciani/TT

Writing on his social media accounts, Löfven said: “My message is still that the Social Democrats and I are ready to shoulder the responsibility to lead the country forward, together with other constructive forces.” 

After losing a vote of no confidence on June 21st, centre-left Prime Minister Stefan Löfven declared that he would be resigning on Monday morning. This triggered rounds of talks between party leaders and the parliamentary speaker, Andreas Norlén, who has the role of assessing what a government backed by the majority of parliament would look like, and proposing potential PM candidates.

A day later, the leader of the right-wing Moderates, Ulf Kristersson was commissioned by the speaker be the first party leader to test the conditions for forming a new government. He had until Friday to try, but gave notice a day early that he’s giving up. 

“The parliamentary conditions for forming a right-of-centre government simply do not exist,” Kristersson said at a press conference on Thursday morning. “We conclude that there are 175 seats which will vote no.”

A candidate passes a prime ministerial vote by having no more than 175 votes against them (abstentions therefore effectively count as votes in favour) and the margins in parliament are currently wafer-thin. 

The right-wing bloc is made up of the Moderates, Christian Democrats and Liberal Party, which together count 111 seats, rising to 173 with the support of the anti-immigration Sweden Democrats.

The vote for Sweden’s next prime minister will be close and could be decided by a margin of one vote. 

Kristersson said that he announced his withdrawal from the process early so as not to delay the process of getting a new government in place, after concluding that a new government formed by him would not pass the vote.

“I think it was my duty to go back to the speaker and say that there is some agreement on policy stances but we do not have the mathematics,” Kristersson said.

Now the Speaker has given the task to form a government to Stefan Löfven, who just lost a vote of no confidence. 

He has been given a probationary period that runs until Monday, with the possibility of an extension if needed. This means that a vote on his candidacy as prime minister could be held on Wednesday at the earliest.

If four consecutive proposed candidates are unsuccessful, snap elections must be called. 

Norlén has said that he hopes to finish the process by the end of July, by holding one vote each week until either a government is voted in or all four chances are used.

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Sweden Elects: I’ve got election pork coming out my ears this week

The Local's editor Emma Löfgren rounds up this week's key talking points of the Swedish election campaign.

Sweden Elects: I've got election pork coming out my ears this week

There’s an old Swedish Word of the Day in The Local’s archives: valfläsk (literally “election pork”, or pork barrel politics).

This week, there’s been enough of it to feed a Swedish town large enough for both a Biltema and a Dressmann store and still have half the pig left!

You could say it started the week before last, when the Social Democrats’ Immigration Minister Anders Ygeman floated a test balloon loaded with a 50-percent cap on non-Nordic residents in troubled neighbourhoods (it went down among the other parties like it was made out of lead).

Then last week, the Liberals threw their hat in the ring by proposing mandatory language assessments for two-year-olds who don’t attend preschool, and then make preschool mandatory for the toddlers whose Swedish isn’t deemed good enough. This, they said, was meant to help integration in areas where bilingual children don’t speak Swedish at home.

“Studies show that early preschool benefits children whose mothers are low-educated and whose parents are born abroad,” their manifesto read.

Liberal leader Johan Pehrson’s statement that in the most extreme cases – where parents clearly refuse to let their children learn Swedish – led to a social media storm that conjured up images of crying toddlers being taken into care for failing to distinguish between en and ett when quizzed.

For any parents of multilingual children (who know better than most how language works in early childhood – I’m raising a multilingual baby myself, but I’ve only just started so if you have any tips, do let me know!), I should stress that the proposal is less extreme than how it was first presented.

This is typical for valfläsk, by the way. Take something that’s perfectly obvious and hard to argue against (of course mixed neighbourhoods and children being encouraged to learn languages are generally good things) but dial it up a notch, insert something immigration-related, promise to get tough on whatever it is you want to get tough on, and propose either something that already exists or would be near-impossible to implement.

Then the Stockholm branch of the conservative Moderates proposed that entire school classes in vulnerable areas should be screened for ADHD through optional rapid tests, in order to increase the comparably lower rate of medication among foreign-born children and prevent them from falling into a life of crime.

“Detached from reality,” said their Social Democrat rival and pointed out that the partly Moderate-run region was planning to cut the number of psychiatric care clinics for young people.

The Christian Democrats, never ones to be outdone, wanted to chemically castrate sex offenders, give police access to healthcare biobanks, and let police take DNA samples from people stopped in internal border checks.

But while many of the election pledges that get tossed around this close to the election (less than a month to go, now!) tend to range from the radical to the ridiculous and are unlikely to ever be implemented, they’re still worth paying attention to. They give us an indication of the direction the parties want to take, and could well reappear in a more watered-down format later on during the governmental cycle.

They may also become part of post-election negotiations, where even small parties hold key cards as the larger parties fight to cobble together viable government coalitions.

They also say something about Sweden and the direction of the political sphere as a whole, where the parties are currently racing to outdo each other on who can be toughest on immigration and law and order.

The Local’s reporter Becky Waterton has gone through all the parties’ election pledges to see how they specifically would affect foreign residents in Sweden – in case you’ve missed her article, click here to read it.

Also in the world of Swedish politics, a new poll by SVT and Novus has the Moderates and the Sweden Democrats neck and neck, Moderate leader Ulf Kristersson promised lower taxes in his summer speech and Prime Minister Magdalena Andersson tougher sentences on gang criminals in hers, and Sweden Democrat leader Jimmie Åkesson suggested changing the name of the Swedish Prison and Probation Service (Kriminalvården) to the Penal Office (Straffverket).

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.