When will Sweden get a new prime minister?

Prime Minister Stefan Löfven has formally stepped down from the role he has had for seven years – but it is not yet clear exactly when his successor will be appointed.

stefan löfven walking through a gate to the swedish parliament. a sign reads stop
Speaker of parliament Andreas Norlén pours a cup of coffee for Social Democrat leader Magdalena Andersson during a round of talks on Thursday. Photo: Jessica Gow/TT

Löfven handed in his formal resignation to the speaker of parliament, Andreas Norlén, on Wednesday. But that doesn’t mean his successor as leader of the Social Democrat Party, Magdalena Andersson, will automatically become the next prime minister.

Norlén held a series of individual meetings with the party leaders of all the eight parties represented in parliament on Thursday.

This is known as a talmansrunda (talman means speaker of parliament and runda means round or turn), a Swedish word and concept we have become very familiar with in the fragile political balance of the past three years.

After that, he announced that he would give Andersson the first shot at forming a government. She has until 10am on Tuesday next week to report back to Norlén. If she has secured enough support from the other parties in parliament, a prime ministerial vote can be held on November 18th, and if she is successful in that vote her new government can take over on November 22nd.

Andersson will also have the option of asking Norlén on Tuesday for more time.

“I want a fast, but not forced, process,” Norlén told reporters on Thursday afternoon.

Under Sweden’s system of negative parliamentarianism, a prime ministerial candidate needs only to convince a majority of members of parliament not to vote against them in order to take power. But with the slim margins in the Swedish parliament, that is not actually a safe guarantee.

Andersson will need to win the votes or abstentions of both the Centre Party’s 31 MPs and the Left Party’s 28 MPs. Together with the government coalition parties’ 100 Social Democrat MPs and 16 Green Party MPs, this would bring her to the magic majority of 175 mandates (the right-wing parties have 174).

The problem is that there are unresolved obstacles to securing all those mandates.

One of them has been cleared: Löfven was waiting for negotiations with the Centre Party to conclude before formally resigning. That has now happened and the party has confirmed it will let Andersson through.

But the Left Party has made being brought back into negotiations its main demand for supporting Andersson as the new Social Democrat prime minister, so one factor will be the outcome of those talks with Andersson and Left Party leader Nooshi Dadgostar.

Another problem is that the government has not yet secured majority support for its budget proposal, which parliament is set to vote on on November 24th. Neither the Centre Party nor the Left Party has promised to back the government’s budget. But that’s a separate issue, said Norlén – for now the question is only whether or not Andersson can form a government.

In the meantime, Löfven is still in charge of a caretaker government.

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What’s the Swedish Christian Democrats’ abortion contract all about?

Ebba Busch, leader of Sweden's Christian Democrats on Monday presented an "abortion contract", which she wants all of Sweden's party leaders to sign. What's going on?

What's the Swedish Christian Democrats' abortion contract all about?

What’s happened? 

Ebba Busch, leader of Sweden’s Christian Democrat party, called a press conference on Monday in which she presented a document that she called “an abortion contract”, which was essentially a pledge to safeguard the right of women in Sweden to have an abortion.  

“There is room for signatures from all eight party leaders,” she said. “I have already signed on behalf of the Christian Democrats.” 

What does the so-called “abortion contract” say? 

The document itself is fairly uncontroversial.

It states simply that Sweden’s law on abortion dates back to 1974, and that it grants women the right to an abortion up until the 18th week of pregnancy, with women seeking abortions later in their pregnancy required to get permission from the National Board of Health and Welfare. 

“Those of us who have signed this document support Sweden’s abortion legislation and promise to defend it if it comes under attack from forces both within our country and from outside,” the document reads.  

Why have the Christian Democrats produced it? 

The decision of the US Supreme Court to overturn Roe vs Wade, and so allow US states to ban abortion has aroused strong feelings in Sweden, as elsewhere, and Busch is seeking to send a strong signal to distance her own Christian party from the US religious right. 

Abortion has been a recurring issue within the Christian Democrats with several politicians and party members critical of abortion. 

Lars Adaktusson, a Christian Democrat MP, was found by the Dagens Nyheter newspaper to have voted against abortion 22 times when he was a member of the European parliament. 

The party has also in the past campaigned for the right of midwives and other medical professionals who are ethically opposed to abortion not to have to take part in the procedure. 

So why aren’t all the other party leaders signing the document? 

Sweden’s governing Social Democrats, and their Green Party allies, dismissed the contract as a political gimmick designed to help the Christian Democrats distance themselves from elements of their own party critical of abortion. 

“It would perhaps be good if Ebba Busch did some homework within her own party to check that there’s 100 percent support for Sweden’s abortion legislation,” Magdalena Andersson, Sweden’s prime minister, said. “That feels like a more important measure than writing contracts between party leaders and trying to solve it that way.”  

In a debate on Swedish television, Green Party leader Märta Stenevi argued that it would be much more significant if Busch’s own MPs and MEPs all signed the document. 

It wasn’t other party leaders who needed to show commitment to abortion legislation, but “her own MPs, MEPs, and not least her proposed government partners in the Sweden Democrats and even some within the Moderate Party”. 

She said it made her “very very worried” to see that the Christian Democrats needed such a contract. “That’s why I see all this more as a clear sign that we need to move forward with protecting the right to abortion in the constitution,” she said. 

How have the other right-wing parties reacted? 

The other right-wing parties have largely backed Busch, although it’s unclear if any other party leaders are willing to actually sign the document. 

Tobias Billström, the Moderates’ group parliamentary leader, retweeted a tweet from Johan Paccamonti, a Stockholm regional politician with the Moderate Party, which criticised the Social Democrats for not signing it, however. 

“It seems to be more important to blow up a pretend conflict than to sign the Christian Democrats’ contract or look at the issue of [including abortion rights in] the constitution, like the Moderates, Liberals and Centre Party want to,” Paccamonti wrote. 

The Liberal Party on Sunday proposed protecting abortion rights in the Swedish constitution, a proposal which has since been backed by the Moderate party and the Centre Party