Sweden gets new prime minister: Magdalena Andersson wins second vote in parliament

Magdalena Andersson has been elected prime minister by the Swedish parliament for the second time in six days.

magdalena andersson in parliament
Magdalena Andersson in parliament on Monday after winning her second prime ministerial vote in 6 days. Photo: Jonas Ekströmer/TT

Andersson was elected with an extremely small marginal – 173 members of parliament voted against her – two more, and she would have lost the vote. She will be Sweden’s first female prime minister once she formally takes office on Tuesday.

“It feels good, and I’m very eager to start working,” Andersson said at a press conference shortly after the vote on Monday.

The Social Democrats, alongside Amineh Kakabaveh, parliament’s only independent, voted for Andersson, with the Green Party, the Left Party and the Centre Party choosing to abstain.

Nina Lundström from the Liberal Party also chose to abstain – breaking party lines and going against the rest of the Liberal Party who voted against Andersson.

Under Sweden’s system, a prime ministerial candidate does not need the support of a majority in parliament, they just need to avoid a majority voting against them.

Despite being a nation that has long championed gender equality, Sweden has never before had a woman as prime minister.

Last week, Andersson was elected by parliament but she had to resign just hours later – before she even had a chance to formally take office – after the Green Party quit her coalition government.

The parliamentary turbulence was unprecedented in politically stable Sweden, where the Social Democrats have dominated for almost a century.

Andersson will now lead a one-party Social Democrat government, rather than the coalition Green-Social Democrat government which had previously been in power since 2014.

This will be Sweden’s first entirely Social Democratic government in 15 years – the last time a one-party Social Democrat government was in power was in 2006, where Andersson was state secretary of the Finance Ministry under then-prime minister Göran Persson.

However, this doesn’t necessarily mean that it will be easier for the Social Democrats to govern Sweden – their government will still be a minority government, with support from only 100 of parliament’s 349 members, requiring careful cross-party negotiation with the left and right to introduce policy.

“Like all minority governments, we’re going to try and cooperate with other parties in parliament. We have a long tradition of cooperation, and we’re ready to do what it takes to move Sweden forwards,” Andersson said.

She will also have to govern with a budget presented by the opposition conservative Moderates, Christian Democrats and far-right Sweden Democrats, after her budget failed to pass through parliament last week.

Her most obvious cooperation partners are the Greens, the Centre and Left parties.

But she is also expected to court the right on issues blocked by the Greens during their time in government, including the expansion of Stockholm’s Arlanda airport and a nuclear fuel waste site.

Andersson has also singled out crime and immigration – key voter concerns – among her top priorities, issues where the Social Democrats are closer ideologically to the centre-right.

The opposition has however been quick to point out that the right has the strongest block in parliament, and would likely be able to pass many of its policies without the Social Democrats.

The four opposition parties on the centre and right are united on most issues and control 174 seats in parliament, while the four parties on the left and centre, which hold 175 seats, are more splintered.

“The Social Democrats will have to accept that it is parliament that decides and government obeys,” Moderates leader Ulf Kristersson warned before Monday’s vote.

The next step for Andersson is to announce her cabinet – planned for Tuesday at 9.30am. After this she, alongside her new cabinet, will 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, after which her new government will take up its duties.

She faces a challenging period in the run-up to the next election, scheduled for September next year, which observers predict will be a close race.

However, Andersson is looking further ahead.

“I don’t see this as the start of ten months, I see this as the start of ten years,” she told reporters at a press conference.

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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