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

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

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?

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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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