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Swedish politics: Why Stefan Löfven is set to return as PM two weeks after being voted out

Stefan Löfven is expected to be voted back in as prime minister today. But it’s a close vote that could be determined by even a single MP going against the party line.

Swedish politics: Why Stefan Löfven is set to return as PM two weeks after being voted out
Prime Minister Stefan Löfven leaving parliament after being ousted in a historic no-confidence vote. Photo: Nils Petter Nilsson/TT

Bring me up to speed: what has happened so far?

The government failed a vote of no confidence which brought together the Left Party (which was strongly against proposals to change Swedish rental laws, which the government had agreed with its former conservative opposition rivals) and the right-of-centre parties (which mostly support the rental law in question but seized the chance to topple the left-of-centre government).

That meant Löfven, who became the first leader in Swedish history to lose a no-confidence vote, could decide whether to call a snap election or resign. He opted for the latter, which triggered a round of party negotiations led by the parliamentary speaker.

After 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, the torch was handed back to Löfven – resulting in the vote about to be held in parliament today.

What will happen today?

The Swedish parliament will vote on Löfven as prime minister at 2pm.

For Löfven to be successful, he will need at least 175 of the 349 members of parliament to either abstain or not actively vote against him. In other words, he doesn’t need a majority to vote for him, as long as the majority does not actively vote against him.

But it’s a close race. Löfven’s own Social Democrats and his government coalition partner the Greens will vote for him, and both the Left Party and the Centre Party have said they will abstain. This gives Löfven 174 votes in his favour. But former Left Party representative, the independent MP Amineh Kakabaveh, on Tuesday pledged to also abstain after negotiations with the Social Democrats, bringing Löfven to 175 votes and leaving 174 potential votes against him – one short of a majority for the “no” side.

It is also possible that some Liberal MPs will go against their party line and also abstain, in protest of the party’s recent decision to support a conservative coalition which would ultimately be dependent on the support of the anti-immigration Sweden Democrat party.

If Löfven wins

If Löfven wins the vote today, he will be reinstated as prime minister (in practice he never really left, and has been leading a caretaker government since his “departure”). He is then expected to announce his new cabinet on Friday – which will likely be similar to the old cabinet, but he does have the option of reshuffling his ministers.

It is worth noting that even if Löfven is successful, he will likely have a rocky year ahead of him in the run-up to Sweden’s next general election in September 2022. He has not yet secured support for his autumn budget, with the Centre Party refusing to collaborate with the government’s other potential allies in the Left Party on a budget. Löfven has said he will again resign if his budget proposal falls.

If Löfven loses

If Löfven loses the vote, the parliamentary speaker will again reopen talks with the various parties to find a viable government coalition. The speaker gets in total four chances to nominate a prime minister candidate. If parliament rejects all of them, a snap election will automatically take place.

Such an election should be held within three months, which means it would likely take place in September. According to Swedish law this would be considered an “extra” election and would not replace ordinary elections – so the next general election would still be held according to schedule next year.

We’ll be discussing the latest political news on The Local’s Sweden in Focus podcast on Saturday. Click HERE to listen.

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2022 SWEDISH ELECTION

Five of Sweden’s political parties planned to evade party financing laws

Five of the eight political parties in the Swedish parliament discussed evading party financing laws with a businessman secretly working with journalists, a new investigation by broadcaster TV4 has found.

Five of Sweden's political parties planned to evade party financing laws

“There’s every reason to demand moral and political responsibility,” political scientist Jonas Hinnfors said of how Sweden’s society should react to the investigation’s findings. “It’s a threat to democracy.”

The new law on donations to political parties which came into force in 201  dictates that parties must declare all donations received from private individuals or businesses. Donators can remain anonymous, byt only as long as their donation does not exceed 24,150 kronor (€2,281). Larger donations must be declared along with the name of the donor.

The Kalla Fakta team which produced the documentary hired two businessmen to call each parliamentary party and ask how they could donate half a million kronor, while staying anonymous. The conversations were recorded and meetings filmed with a hidden camera.

Three parties – the Centre Party, the Left Party and the Green Party – said that it wasn’t possible for the donor to remain anonymous. 

But the other five parties – the Social Democrats, the Moderates, the Sweden Democrats, the Christian Democrats and the Liberals – suggested different ways of getting around the requirements.

Christian Democrat press secretary Peter Kullgren suggested splitting up donations and donating to individual candidates so that each donation remained under the legal limit.

Another method, proposed by Sweden Democrat head of finance Lena-Karin Lifvenhjelm, consisted of giving the money to another individual who would donate it under their name instead.

Magdalena Agrell, the Social Democrat’s head of finance, discussed finding someone else to act as a front in recorded telephone conversations.

The chairman and communications chief of the Social Democrat’s youth organisation, Diyar Cicek and Youbert Aziz, suggested that the businessman instead create a foundation to donate the money.

The Moderate Party’s ombudsman Patrik Haggren proposed that donations could be sent from different members of the businessman’s family in order to remain anonymous.

Lisa Flinth, who is responsible for leadership support in the Liberal Party, also proposed this method, providing the contact details of a middleman, the consultant Svend Dahl.

Dahl first proposed that his company send an invoice of half a million kronor to the businessman, but later suggested that the money be transferred to him to donate to the Liberals in his name, thereby avoiding having to pay tax.

“It’s important you keep yourself anonymous,” Dahl said in Kalla Fakta‘s recordings of conversations with the undercover businessman.

Dahl is a political scientist and has previously been head of media organisation Liberala Nyhetsbyrån.

Flinth was well aware of the fact that the method undermines the aim of the law, telling the businessman in a telephone conversation that it was very important that nothing could be traced back to the party.

“It could have serious consequences,” she said. “We don’t really have any margins when it comes to credibility.”

“If there was an article about this in the middle of a heated election campaign and we miss the threshold for getting in to parliament, I would never forgive myself,” she said.

Political scientist Jonas Hinnfors, who commented on the conversation for the Kalla Fakta team, said he was shocked after hearing it.

“They know what the point of the new legislation is,” he told Kalla Fakta. “Going against that is political dynamite.”

In a written comment on their website, the Liberals’ vice-party secretary Gustav Georgson stated that the party would not use Dahl’s consulting services again and that it “takes the statements made by Kalla Fakta seriously and will act forcefully to avoid similar situations happening again.”

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