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Sweden Elects: What we DON’T know about Sweden’s political future

After an election that saw a far-right party reach the edge of real power, The Local's editor Emma Löfgren looks at what we know and don't know about where Sweden's heading next.

Sweden Elects: What we DON'T know about Sweden's political future
Magdalena Andersson when she resigned as prime minister. Photo: Pontus Lundahl/TT


So, you now have a far-right government in Sweden? a friend from abroad asked me.

Their misunderstanding of Sweden’s post-election landscape, as someone who doesn’t closely follow Swedish politics, is excusable, but despite the rise of the far right, fundamentally wrong.

But what exactly happened in the past week, and where are we heading next?

Here’s what we know and what we don’t know.

We know that the right-wing bloc beat the left-wing bloc, with 176 parliamentary seats versus 173. We know that the centre-left Social Democrats with 30.3 percent of the vote remain the biggest party, as they have since more or less the dawn of modern Swedish political history.

We also know that there’s a new second-largest party in Sweden, after the far-right Sweden Democrats knocked the conservative Moderates out of their spot with 20.5 to 19.1 percent. But they won votes not only from the Moderates, but also from the Social Democrats; 14 percent of their votes came from the former party and 12 percent from the latter, according to SVT.

And we know that Prime Minister Magdalena Andersson of the Social Democrats handed in her resignation after some of her centre-left allies failed to scramble enough votes for the bloc – despite her Social Democrats actually improving their result compared to the last election.

By the way, if you’re interested in a deep dive into the data behind Swedish politics, including the unusual voter preferences of Swedish teens and who would win if only women or only men voted, I recommend listening to the latest episode of The Local’s Sweden in Focus podcast.

What we don’t know, not really, is what happens next.

But today, the incumbent speaker of parliament Andreas Norlén will meet the leaders of the rest of Sweden’s eight parties (he met Andersson last week) to start the process of forming a new government. He is set to hold a press conference at 2.30pm to outline the next steps.

After that, the speaker will give one of the party leaders the task of forming a government. This is where I think my friend got confused, but it is in fact unlikely that the job will be given to Jimmie Åkesson, the leader of the Sweden Democrats, despite his party becoming the largest party of the right. Instead, he’s expected to name Ulf Kristersson of the runner-up Moderate Party.

This is because Kristersson is still the leader who has the greatest chance of gathering enough support on the right for his government – a Sweden Democrat-led government would simply be too much even for those parties who have said they would quite like their support in parliament.

We don’t know which parties are going to be in government in the end, but a coalition of the Moderates and the Christian Democrats is a good guess (that’s what those parties have openly said they prefer). There have been rumours of Kristersson trying to bring the Liberals – the fourth right-wing party – into the governmental fold, but he’ll have a hard time convincing the Sweden Democrats to support such a government unless they get significant policy rewards in return.

The Sweden Democrats came out guns blazing after their election success, insisting on a place in the government. More likely than not, this is a negotiation tactic – they know that it would be hard for Kristersson to get the support he needs from the Liberals for such a government.

But these are all things we don’t yet know.

And we don’t know what real impact the Sweden Democrats will have on immigration policy even with a right-wing government – indeed, even if they themselves were in government.

This is because the margins are still very slim. It would only take two members of the Liberals – a divided party – to deflect for any legislative proposal by a Kristersson government to fall.

But although the Liberals say they want to be the moral conscience of the right bloc, there may be immigration policies on which the parties could find common ground. Their stance on integration has in the past been something that could be described as aspiring to be fair but tough (they proposed language tests for would-be citizens almost two decades ago – a policy most of the parties in Sweden are now in favour of). You can compare their ideas here.

Finally, international media have understandably focused on the election result, but another thing happened last week that could affect the future of Swedish politics even more than the election.

Annie Lööf, leader of the Centre Party since 2011, resigned.

She was long known as the strongest voice against the Sweden Democrats and had aligned her party with the centre-left in order to keep the anti-immigration party from having any influence. This despite the fact that the Centre is quite far from much of the left on key economic issues.

Her departure will bring the divisions between the party’s social liberal and conservative liberal factions to the surface. The party was allied with the right wing (then without the Sweden Democrats) until after the 2018 election, and if they decide to return to the right wing with their 24 seats, it would make a Kristersson government much more powerful. But that’s a big if.

Anyway, that’s a roundup of what we know, but mostly of what we don’t know.

Hopefully things will become clearer in the coming week.

Sweden Elects is a weekly column by Editor Emma Löfgren looking at the big talking points and issues in the Swedish election race. Members of The Local Sweden can sign up to receive the column as a newsletter in their email inbox each week. Just click on this “newsletters” option or visit the menu bar.

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Sweden’s right-wing parties agree to bring back Norlén as Speaker 

The four parties backing Moderate leader Ulf Kristersson as prime minister on Sunday announced that they had agreed to keep the current Speaker, Andreas Norlén in place, when the role is put to a vote as parliament opens on Monday.

Sweden's right-wing parties agree to bring back Norlén as Speaker 

The parties won a three-seat majority over the bloc led by the incumbent Social Democrats in Sweden’s general election on September 11th, and are currently in the middle of negotiating how they will form Sweden’s next government. 

Sweden’s parliament meets at 11am for the official installation of the 349 MPs for this mandate period. The votes for the Speaker and three Deputy Speakers are the first item on the agenda, after which the parties each select their parliamentary leaders and then vote on who should chair each of the parliamentary committees. 

READ ALSO: What happens next as parliament reopens? 

In a joint press release announcing the decision, the parties also agreed that the Sweden Democrats would be given eight of the 16 chairmanships the bloc will have of parliamentary committees in the next parliament, and that MPs for all four parties would back Julia Kronlid, the Sweden Democrats’ Second Deputy Leader, as the second deputy Speaker, serving under Norlén. 

In the press release, the parties said that Norlén had over the last four years shown that he has “the necessary personal qualities and qualifications which the role requires”. 

The decision to retain Norlén, who presided over the 134 days of talks and parliamentary votes that led to the January Agreement in 2019, was praised by Social Democrat leader Magdalena Andersson. 

Norlén, she said in a statement, had “managed his responsibilities well over the past four years and been a good representative of Sweden’s Riksdag.” 

The decision to appoint Kronlid was opposed by both the Left Party and the Green Party, who said that she supported tightening abortion legislation, and did not believe in evolution.

The Green Party’s joint leader Märta Stenevi said that her party “did not have confidence in Julia Kronlid”, pointing to an interview she gave in 2014 when she said she did not believe that humans were descended from apes.

The party has proposed its finance spokesperson Janine Alm Ericson as a rival candidate. 

The Left Party said it was planning to vote for the Centre Party’s candidate for the post second deputy Speaker in the hope of blocking Kronlid as a candidate.