Sweden’s Stefan Löfven voted back in as Prime Minister

Swedish Prime Minister Stefan Löfven has been voted back into office in a parliamentary vote, after the government was brought down by a no-confidence motion two weeks ago.

Sweden's Stefan Löfven voted back in as Prime Minister
Stefan Löfven (L) returns to the PM role after spending two weeks leading a transitional government following his resignation. Photo: Christine Olsson/TT

He passed the parliamentary vote on Wednesday with 176 members of parliament either voting in favour of his return to office or abstaining from the vote.

“Parliament has put its trust in me to continue leading in Sweden. I take on this task with determination and respect,” the returning PM told media at a press conference.

The system required a majority (at least 175) to not vote against him, rather than needing a majority of ‘yes’ votes; in other words, abstentions effectively worked as votes in favour.

To reach that majority, Löfven received votes in favour from members of the governing Social Democrat and Green parties (116 votes in total) while the Centre and Left Parties (58 votes) abstained, as did one former Left Party MP who is now politically independent. In addition, one member of the Liberal Party voted against her party line and abstained from the vote.

A total of 173 MPs voted against Löfven’s reinstatement as prime minister, including the Moderates, Sweden Democrats, and most Liberal Party MPs.

The vote was called after Löfven became Sweden’s first ever prime minister to lose a vote of no confidence after the Social Democrats’ long-term ally the Left Party (which was opposed to suggested changes to Swedish rental laws) sided with the right-wing opposition to topple the government. Löfven opted to resign rather than call a snap election, citing the ongoing Covid-19 pandemic as a reason to avoid prolonged political uncertainty.

This meant a round of talks between party leaders, aimed at forming a government backed by a parliamentary majority.

Ulf Kristersson, the leader of Sweden’s main opposition party the Moderates, then abandoned his own bid to form a government after realising he didn’t have the votes. Even though the no-confidence vote had been passed by a majority of parliament, the Left Party still prefers to back a left-of-centre government, but Kristersson was critical of Löfven’s return.

“We are getting a historically weak government which has so little agreement on policy [with the parties whose support is needed] that they cannot even put forward a common budget,” he said after the vote. 

On Friday, Löfven will announce the members of his new government, though no major changes are expected from the previous line-up.

But despite being voted back in, Löfven doesn’t have an easy path ahead, with the next general election scheduled for September 2022.

Before then, one of his most significant tasks will be passing this year’s autumn budget. He has not yet secured parliamentary support for this, with the Centre Party refusing to collaborate with the Left Party and both parties’ support likely needed for a majority.

We will be discussing Sweden’s new (ish) prime minister in the next episode of our Sweden in Focus podcast on Saturday. Click HERE to listen.

More on the government crisis:

Member comments

  1. What a shame. Sweden was given a brief chance to implement change – yet returned to the status quo. Unbelievable.
    I guess the politicians don’t want to risk an election and possibly losing their highly-paid seat and pensions.

    It’s time for an election and a new government.

    1. Maybe I’m a cynic but I think you’re right. Sadly I also believe that the status quo is also a likely democratic outcome at the next election. It’s how the Swedish people are and whilst many voices dissent from the left orientated masses there is now a sizeable number of new voters beholding to the left who balance the dissent.

      1. Hi PCSWE,

        Thanks for getting back to me. Good points.

        I think the left is very established, and the leftist party that took down the Prime Minister and his party over the housing issue – had immediate regret when she realised that she might not get elected again. Better to crumble, go back to the table, and allow the old guy to continue as PM than to risk an election where some of her party might lose their seats. Pure self serving.

        I agree that the new voters tend to be strong leftists. Which is bizarre given that so many came from countries ruined by leftist governments and leftist policies. It shows something about their true intentions though. Of course, it isn’t all, but many.

        Sad. As Sweden won’t be Sweden soon. I give Sweden ten years – max. Then it will be something completely different. Better or worse – you tell me.

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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.