Stefan Löfven resigns as Prime Minister of Sweden

Stefan Löfven has handed in his resignation as Prime Minister, an expected move after he stepped down as leader of the Social Democrats last week.

Stefan Löfven resigns as Prime Minister of Sweden
Outgoing Prime Minister Stefan Löfven and parliamentary speaker Andreas Norlén. Photo: Anders Wiklund/TT

Television cameras filmed Löfven handing his resignation letter to the speaker of parliament, Andreas Norlén.

“Well, here we are again,” he said as he and Norlén sat down for a Swedish fika – coffee and biscuits.

Andersson, who is currently Finance Minister, was elected to replace Löfven as party leader of the Social Democrats at the party’s congress last week, putting her on track to become the country’s first woman Prime Minister if she wins a vote in parliament.

No date has been set for that vote yet.

In Sweden’s parliament, political forces are so finely balanced that the Social Democrats need the support of both their Green Party coalition partners and the Left and Centre parties to elect a new Prime Minister.

The Centre Party on Wednesday said it would back Andersson, but the Left Party has not yet confirmed what it’s going to do.

The act of installing the first woman prime minister sounds almost anachronistic in a country that has long championed gender equality. All other Nordic countries – Norway, Denmark, Finland and Iceland – have all seen women lead their governments.

The change at the head of the Social Democrats comes as the party hovers close to its lowest-ever approval ratings with elections less than a year away, in September 2022.

The right-wing opposition, led by the conservative Moderates, has in recent years inched closer to the anti-immigration Sweden Democrats and hopes to govern with its informal backing.

‘Tight’ election seen

After being confirmed as party leader last week, Andersson, a former junior swimming champion often described as a “pragmatic” politician, outlined three political priorities for the coming years.

She said she wanted to “take back democratic control of schools, healthcare and elderly care”, in a country that has long had a debate over welfare sector liberalisation and privatisation and companies being able to profit from taxpayer money.

She also said she aimed to make Sweden a leader in the climate transition and become a role model for the world.

However, it remains to be seen how much change Andersson will be able to bring to the Social Democrats.

“Magdalena Andersson has worked closely together with Löfven for seven years. I expect no major changes,” Anders Sannerstedt, political science professor at Lund University, told AFP.

“The Social Democrats need to come up with some new policy ideas” if they want to win the election, he said.

But “Andersson is more a technocratic bureaucrat than a visionary creative leader. Time will tell.”

He predicted the general election would be a “very tight race”.

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Sweden’s right-wing parties agree to bring back Norlén as Speaker 

The four parties backing Moderate leader Ulf Kristersson as prime minister on Sunday announced that they had agreed to keep the current Speaker, Andreas Norlén in place, when the role is put to a vote as parliament opens on Monday.

Sweden's right-wing parties agree to bring back Norlén as Speaker 

The parties won a three-seat majority over the bloc led by the incumbent Social Democrats in Sweden’s general election on September 11th, and are currently in the middle of negotiating how they will form Sweden’s next government. 

Sweden’s parliament meets at 11am for the official installation of the 349 MPs for this mandate period. The votes for the Speaker and three Deputy Speakers are the first item on the agenda, after which the parties each select their parliamentary leaders and then vote on who should chair each of the parliamentary committees. 

READ ALSO: What happens next as parliament reopens? 

In a joint press release announcing the decision, the parties also agreed that the Sweden Democrats would be given eight of the 16 chairmanships the bloc will have of parliamentary committees in the next parliament, and that MPs for all four parties would back Julia Kronlid, the Sweden Democrats’ Second Deputy Leader, as the second deputy Speaker, serving under Norlén. 

In the press release, the parties said that Norlén had over the last four years shown that he has “the necessary personal qualities and qualifications which the role requires”. 

The decision to retain Norlén, who presided over the 134 days of talks and parliamentary votes that led to the January Agreement in 2019, was praised by Social Democrat leader Magdalena Andersson. 

Norlén, she said in a statement, had “managed his responsibilities well over the past four years and been a good representative of Sweden’s Riksdag.” 

The decision to appoint Kronlid was opposed by both the Left Party and the Green Party, who said that she supported tightening abortion legislation, and did not believe in evolution.

The Green Party’s joint leader Märta Stenevi said that her party “did not have confidence in Julia Kronlid”, pointing to an interview she gave in 2014 when she said she did not believe that humans were descended from apes.

The party has proposed its finance spokesperson Janine Alm Ericson as a rival candidate. 

The Left Party said it was planning to vote for the Centre Party’s candidate for the post second deputy Speaker in the hope of blocking Kronlid as a candidate.