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2022 SWEDISH ELECTION

Swedish PM formally tenders resignation to speaker of parliament

Social Democrat leader Magdalena Andersson has tendered her resignation as Sweden's Prime Minister, after her four-party bloc failed to secure a majority in the country's close-fought general election.

Swedish PM formally tenders resignation to speaker of parliament
Magdalena Andersson leaves Sweden's parliament after tendering her resignation to the Speaker. Photo: Anders Wiklund/TT

Andersson submitted her resignation to Andreas Norlén, speaker of the Swedish parliament, who will now start the process through which a new prime minister will be voted in. 

“I have made it clear that if the Moderates change their minds and want to cooperate with me instead with the Sweden Democrats, my door is still open to Ulf Kristersson,” she said as she went into the meeting.

“I am ready to cooperate with every party apart from the Sweden Democrats. I said that before the election and I saw that after the election. But it is Ulf Kristersson who has chosen to lock himself to tightly to the Sweden Democrats.” 

Norlén is now expected to hold a press conference where he will lay out the timetable and details of the coming process, which will see a new talmansrunda, a round of talks between the speaker and each party leader, after which he will decide who — in this case almost certainly Ulf Kristersson — is best placed to form a new government. 

The leader of Sweden’s conservatives, Ulf Kristersson, was working to form a new government on Thursday after a narrow
election win by a coalition of right and far-right parties.

“I now begin the work of forming a new and strong government,” Kristersson said on Wednesday as vote tallies were being finalised. “Now we will restore order in Sweden!”

With 176 seats — 73 of them going to the far-right Sweden Democrats — the four-party coalition will have a slim majority over the left, which won 173, according to a tally by the country’s elections authority that includes 99.9 percent of voting offices.

Sunday’s election was so close that it took until Wednesday for tens of thousands of votes from abroad and those cast in advance to be counted to validate the results.

Acknowledging her camp’s defeat on Wednesday, Prime Minister Magdalena Andersson announced that she would resign.

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OPINION & ANALYSIS

OPINION: Get organised or Sweden’s open society will be a distant memory

Sweden turned hostile to immigrants and asylum seekers several years ago, but continued to pretend that it was a welcoming nation. Now official politics has caught up with reality, argues David Crouch

OPINION: Get organised or Sweden's open society will be a distant memory

The agreement announced on Friday by the four parties which won Sweden’s election feels like the moment in an episode of Road Runner, where the coyote character spots there is only air beneath him.

For those unfamiliar with the classic Looney Tunes cartoon, there were often scenes in which a character called Wile E. Coyote would run off a cliff, keep running in thin air, look down, realise there was no ground beneath him, and only then fall.

Sweden turned hostile to immigrants and asylum seekers years ago, but continued to pretend that it was a liberal and welcoming nation. Now, with the suddenness of that Road Runner moment, official politics has abruptly caught up with reality. 

Late last year, outgoing Social Democrat justice and migration minister Morgan Johansson was asked in parliament if Sweden had succeeded in reducing asylum rights to the EU minimum. His answer was full of soothing words about protecting people in a troubled world, about humanitarian needs, about a sustainable and humane system. But yes, he said, Sweden’s asylum framework was now the EU minimum and the numbers were the lowest for 20 years. 

With the Tidö Agreement, those soothing words are gone, and there is no longer any pretence that Sweden will continue to take into account individual freedoms, equality or human rights for non-Swedes. The agreement is a relentless, detailed, cold-blooded statement on how this government will cut the rights of all non-Swedish citizens to the bare minimum required by EU law.  Wherever possible, it adds, migrants will be encouraged to return to wherever they came from.  

The new approach will affect every aspect of life for non-Swedes, starting with access to healthcare, housing, child support, schools, and other benefits. It is all designed to minimise the “incentives” for people to come to Sweden. The Local has parsed the document here.

In some sense this is refreshingly honest: there is no longer any need to see through fancy political rhetoric to get to the meat of what is going on.

But it is still a shock to read, for example, that Sweden will change its constitution with the aim of “limiting the rights of asylum seekers as far as is legally possible” (page 34), or that “criminals” who lack Swedish citizenship will be deported “without having been convicted of a crime” (page 19).

In many areas, the groundwork for the shift had already been laid by the outgoing government. As The Local has reported in depressing detail over recent years, life has become harder both for people coming here to work or seek asylum, and for those with non-European backgrounds who already live here.

Attitudes in Swedish society have changed more broadly. A defining feature of this year’s election campaign was that immigrants were for the first time described as a problem in themselves, with politicians of both left and right drawing a connection between immigration and crime.

The media have both reflected and reinforced this shift. As he describes in a new book, the journalist Christian Catomeris left SVT’s flagship Agenda programme because of its negative approach to immigration.

“When [leading Sweden Democrat] Björn Söder now says that public service broadcasting must change, I laugh a little, because I feel that change has already taken place, that the SD’s questions and perspectives have permeated journalism since 2015 and probably also this election,” Catomeris told the journalists’ trade union last month.

The Tidö Agreement refers over and over again to utlänningar, “foreigners”, an unpleasantly pejorative word for non-Swedes. But outgoing prime minister Magdalena Andersson had already started to use the word earlier this year in a rhetorical shift that mirrored the language used by the Sweden Democrats and prepared the ground for her later remarks about “Somalitowns” and talk of forcibly removing immigrants from problem areas.

As an immigrant myself, married to a family of immigrants, who found Sweden’s generous response to the refugee crisis of 2015 inspiring, I am saddened and dismayed by the Tidö agreement. Even if it is only continuing trends already apparent in Swedish society and politics, it both strengthens and accelerates them.

But there is also room to push back. The agreement calls for a large number of inquiries to be set up to investigate how to do all the things the new government wants to do. The word inquiry (utredning) appears in all its different forms no fewer than 182 times throughout the document.

The parties to the agreement each have a right to veto any proposal that emerges from these discussions.

This means there will be many opportunities for Swedish civil society to intervene and make its voice heard. Immigrant, expat and asylum-seeker organisations will need to organise themselves like never before if they want to defend multiculturalism and prevent Sweden’s open society from becoming a distant memory.

David Crouch is the author of Almost Perfekt: How Sweden Works and What Can We Learn From It. He is a freelance journalist and a lecturer in journalism at Gothenburg University.

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