So… who is the prime minister of Sweden right now?

Magdalena Andersson, the first woman to get confirmed as prime minister by the Swedish parliament, quit before even taking office after a tense budget vote threw the government into crisis. So who's running the country?

magdalena andersson surrounded by applauding party colleagues
Hint: It's not Magdalena Andersson. Photo: Erik Simander/TT

Social Democrat leader Andersson won the prime ministerial vote in parliament on Wednesday morning. Less than eight hours later she tendered her resignation, after a turbulent series of events saw her left-wing budget fail to pass through parliament.

Her decision to step down was sparked by the junior Green Party announcing it was leaving the coalition government, because it refused to govern on a right-wing opposition budget that had been co-authored by the anti-immigration Sweden Democrats.

So was Andersson ever Sweden’s first female prime minister or not?

Here’s the crux: Although the Royal Palace holds no real power in modern Swedish politics, technically a new government only takes office after meeting the King.

Normally, the procedure is that after being confirmed by parliament, the prime-minister-to-be and his or her newly-appointed cabinet attend a so-called skifteskonselj – a change of government cabinet meeting with the King of Sweden at the Royal Palace.

That is when the transition of power formally takes place, and the new government does not take up its duties until after that meeting.

Andersson had been set to meet King Carl XVI Gustaf on Friday.

But because she never got around to that before handing in her resignation, she never formally took office.

So again, who’s running the country?

Andersson answered that question herself at a press conference on Wednesday, when asked by a reporter from the Swedish-speaking branch of Finland’s public broadcaster YLE.

It’s Stefan Löfven, who has been leading a caretaker government since he tendered his resignation earlier in November. That government never transferred its powers to Andersson’s new government, so it is still in charge, at least for the time being.

So much for Löfven’s plans to spend the first months of his retirement building a sauna at his summer house in Örnsköldsvik, after seven years as prime minister of Sweden.

stefan löfven

Who’s your prime minister? I’m your prime minister. Photo: Duygu Getrien/TT

Parliamentary speaker Andreas Norlén has now restarted the process of finding a prime minister. After discussions with party leaders on Thursday, he re-nominated Andersson. Parliament will vote on her candidacy a second time on Monday.

She is expected to be re-elected, with the Centre Party, Left Party and Green Party confirming they plan to approve (or accept, as a prime ministerial vote needs no more than a majority of abstentions) her nomination just like they did the first time.

She is then likely to lead a one-party government consisting only of the Social Democrats, and will have to govern on the right-wing budget at least until the next amendment budget in spring, which she said she would be prepared to do.

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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