Sweden’s Social Democrats float idea of voting in a Moderate Speaker

Sweden's Social Democrats have said they would back a Moderate party candidate as the Speaker of the Riksdag parliament, in a move that seems calculated to complicate the right bloc's government negotiations.

Sweden's Social Democrats float idea of voting in a Moderate Speaker
Andreas Norlén, speaker of Sweden's parliament, takes a question at a press conference. Photo: Jessica Gow/TT

“We would very much like for a broad agreement to be reached around the Speaker,” Sweden’s outgoing Prime Minister Magdalena Andersson told the Dagens Nyheter newspaper. “This is the second-highest ranking post in the kingdom and the highest elected position.” 

The Aftonbladet newspaper reported on Wednesday that the post of Speaker was a key part of the negotiations between the Moderate, Sweden Democrat, Christian Democrat and Liberal parties, with the Sweden Democrats presumably seeking to appoint a senior party figure to the post. 

As the vote is a secret ballot, the newspaper reported, there is concern in the negotiations that enough MPs from the Liberal Party, or even other parties, will break ranks and not vote for the agreed choice. 

READ ALSO: Sweden’s right-wing bloc ‘agreed on stricter migration policy’

According to Dagens Nyheter, Andersson has already contacted Moderate Party leader to discuss the possibility of having a Moderate Party figure in the post. 

In the past, the Social Democrats have argued that the biggest party in the parliament should have the Speaker position, whereas the Moderates have historically argued that it should be the biggest party in the ruling bloc. 

Andersson said her party would be willing to “make an exception” to its principle. “We think there are arguments at this time, to have a Speaker who can be appointed with very broad support in the parliament. What’s important is that it’s someone who can bring people together, either a Social Democrat or a Moderate”. 

The outgoing Speaker, Andreas Norlén, is popular both within the parliament and outside it, given the steady way he has handled an unusually turbulent two terms.

“I can state that Andreas Norlén enjoys great respect, both in the parliament, and among the Swedish people,” she said. “He has handled his duties creditably and during a turbulent time, and a problematic parliamentary situation.” 

She said she was offering to discuss the issue with Kristersson to avoid the risk of a Sweden Democrat Speaker, something she said would be “problematic”. 

“This is a party whose whole rationale is to split rather than unite. This is also about the picture of Sweden overseas.” 

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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.