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UPDATE: Swedish Prime Minister Stefan Löfven to resign

Swedish Prime Minister Stefan Löfven announced on Sunday that he will step down as party leader this autumn, a year ahead of Sweden’s next election.

UPDATE: Swedish Prime Minister Stefan Löfven to resign
Swedish Prime Minister Stefan Löfven giving a speech on August 22nd. Photo: Henrik Montgomery/TT

Former trade union chief Löfven took the reins of the Social Democrats in 2012 and led his party to two successful elections in 2014 and 2018. But a new leader will take over ahead of the 2022 election, Löfven said in a speech on Sunday.

He will step down at the party’s congress in November.

Löfven, 64, came into politics after heading up one of Sweden’s most powerful trade unions, IF Metall, following a career as a welder.

He is known for his negotiation skills, and he’s had ample opportunity to flex them during his tenure, but the party has been struggling in the polls.

Just months after taking power, his party failed to push its budget through, and Löfven called a snap election, but this was cancelled after crisis talks. In the next election in 2018, his party got its worst result in over a century, and it took four months of negotiations before a new government was put together.

Earlier this summer, he became Sweden’s first prime minister in history to lose a no-confidence vote, following a row over rent controls. However, the opposition was unable to form a viable coalition to take over, and so Löfven returned to the helm again, only two weeks later.

Löfven announced his resignation at his annual summer speech, this year held in Åkersberga near Stockholm.

“The decision has matured over time. I have been party chairman for ten years, prime minister for seven. These years have been amazing. But everything comes to an end. I want to give my successor the best of conditions,” he said.

Löfven has led a weak minority government together with the Greens Party for the past three years, struggling to find a workable coalition following the inconclusive elections of September 2018.

The announcement of his resignation came nonetheless as a surprise, as Löfven had previously indicated he wanted to lead the party in the next election campaign.

But Ewa Stenberg, political commentator at Swedish newspaper Dagens Nyheter, said it was a wise decision on his part.

“Lofven’s not a good election campaigner or debater, he’s not the leader the Social Democrats need in a tough election campaign where rhetoric is important,” she wrote.

“Against that background, it’s logical that he hands over to someone who’s better with words and who can spark enthusiasm.”

Woman as next PM?
It is not yet known who will succeed Löfven as party leader, though Stenberg and other political commentators speculated that Finance Minister Magdalena Andersson was a hot tip.

Andersson has held the finance portfolio for seven years, and has on occasion stood in for the prime minister.

Health Minister Lena Hallengren, who like Andersson enjoys relatively high ratings among the public, especially for her handling of the Covid-19 pandemic, was also mentioned as a possible successor.

Despite being a longstanding champion of women’s rights and gender equality, Sweden, unlike its Nordic neighbours, has yet to have a woman prime minister.

Whoever is elected to succeed Löfven as party leader would have to be approved by parliament in order to take over as prime minister.

Since coming to power in 2014, Löfven has weathered the decline of social democracy in Europe, the rise of the far right and even the pandemic.

Member comments

  1. You can’t first say “Löfven […] led his party to two successful elections in 2014 and 2018” and then a few lines further down in the same article write “[…] in 2018, his party got its worst result in over a century, and it took four months of negotiations before a new government was put together.” The 2018 election was hardly “successful” but instead was a downright godawful disaster for both Löfven and his social-democrat party, and indeed for Sweden as a whole.

    The only thing Löfven has done in the last seven years is to sell Sweden down the river to the extremist 4-percent Miljöpartiet, and would not be in power at all if it wasn’t for the Centre and Liberal parties’ betrayal of their own electorate.

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POLITICS

Koran burnings by Danish far-Right extremist no longer causing riots, Swedish police say

Swedish police said there have been no disturbances associated with the Koran burning by Danish far-Right extremist Rasmus Paludan and his party Stram Kurs ("Hard Line") this week around Stockholm, unlike the riots seen over Easter.

Koran burnings by Danish far-Right extremist no longer causing riots, Swedish police say

Paludan and his party have been holding demonstrations this week involving burning the Koran, in what Paludan describes as an “election tour” ahead of standing in Sweden’s parliamentary election in September.

However Swedish newswire TT has reported that few people have seemed to care about the shock tactics used and police have confirmed that no major disturbances have occurred as a result of the demonstrations.

This is in stark contrast to the demonstrations over Easter, which resulted in riots involving vandalism and violence aimed primarily at police. A total of 26 police officers were injured and at least 40 people were arrested.

“The police did not anticipate the extent of the protests and the enormous violence that the Easter riots brought with them. I don’t know if we have seen anything similar in Sweden in modern times,” Sten Widmalm, political scientist at Uppsala University, told newswire TT.

Widmalm says there are now fewer people turning up at Paludan’s demonstrations because of the number of people charged over the Easter riots. He also noted the increased police presence and adapted resources by the police, which has stopped anyone getting close to using violence.

Everyone that TT newswire spoke to a demonstration in Fittja torg, said they knew Paludan’s aim was to provoke people.

“I am a Muslim myself and I don’t care. For a true Muslim, all religions are equal. His message is to create conflict and irritation. You shouldn’t give him that,” Himmet Kaya told TT. 

According to Widmalm, there is nothing to indicate that Paludan will be successful at the Swedish election.

“On the other hand, I think that Stram Kurs has influenced Swedish politics very much in such a way that it has exposed large gaps in society. I think awareness of these has increased, due to the Easter riots – although it’s nothing to thank Paludan for.”

In Sweden, you must be a Swedish citizen in order to be elected to parliament. Paludan’s father is Swedish, and he applied for and was granted Swedish citizenship in 2020.

In order to enter the Swedish parliament, Paludan must win at least four percent of the vote in the upcoming election.

In 2019, Paludan stood in Danish parliamentary elections, achieving only 1.8 percent of the vote. Under Denmark’s proportional representation system, parties must achieve at least two percent of the vote in order to enter the Danish parliament.

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