Stirring in the Cauldron (Swedish Politics 2018)

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The formation of a new government in Sweden is becoming a confusing serial. Today is 77 days after the election, but the newly elected parliament hasn’t been able to agree on who should become Prime Minister and form a new government. Here’s a summary of what’s happened so far:

  • When the new parliament was assembled the first time, they had to vote, as stipulated in the constitution, about to keep or unseat the then sitting PM, Stefan Löfven, chairman of the Social Democrats. He was unseated. Thus, the Speaker becomes responsible for nominating a new PM.
  • First, the Speaker assigned Ulf Kristersson, chairman of the Moderate Party and leader of the four-party Alliance, to probe if he could get support for becoming PM. After two weeks, he reported back: Negative.

The Alliance is the parliament’s right wing, consisting of two liberal parties – the Liberals and the Center Party – and two conservative parties – the Moderates and the Christian Democrats.

  • Next, Stefan Löfven, the recently unseated PM, who is currently leading the interim government, got the same assignment. After two weeks, he reported back: Negative.

The problem here is that neither one can muster enough votes to get a majority. Kristersson can get elected if the ultra-right Sweden Democrats vote for him, provided that all the other parties in the Alliance also support him – but the two liberal parties in the Alliance have sworn not to accept a majority that relies on the Sweden Democrats…

  • Third, the Speaker decided to nominate Ulf Kristersson for PM, even though he hadn’t been able to get enough promises of support when he tried. As expected, the parliament voted no. That is, the parliament had first unseated the PM and then rejected his main contender. Now what?

It also meant that the two liberal parties in the Alliance voted against “their own” candidate. Is the Alliance falling apart?

At this point, it was pretty much expected that Stefan Löfven should be nominated, but he opposed, saying that it would be meaningless, since nothing seems to have changed. So instead…

  • Fourth, the Speaker assigned Annie Lööf, chairwoman of the rather small Center Party, to probe if she could find ANY combination or coalition that could agree on a candidate who would be accepted by the parliament. After one week, she reported back: Negative.

Still, Ms Lööf’s witchcraft might have worked… she must’ve heated and stirred the cauldron enough to make the potion boil and bubble.

  • Fifth, the Speaker decided to nominate Stefan Löfven for PM, which he now accepted. The nomination will be made official in the parliament on December 3, and the voting will take place two days thereafter, as prescribed in the constitution. Why did he accept the nomination this time? Did Ms Lööf’s potion work?

Speculations are that the Liberals might want to change side. Their leader, Jan Björklund, says that no alternative can be ruled out, but decisions are up to the party council. Is he aiming to be a minister in Löfven’s government?

But Löfven will also need support from the Center Party. That’s a little harder, because a only few months ago, Annie Lööf declared that she’d rather die than be in a government lead by Stefan Löfven. But… who knows, she might be able to negotiate a few of her campaign promises even if she stays out of the government, if she supports Löfven.

In the meantime, the Moderates are probably promising the world to the Center and Liberal parties if they vote no…

Either way, the Liberals and the Center Party will face harsh criticism for breaking their campaign promises: 1) not accept a government dependent on the Swedish Democrats, and 2) not support a government with Stefan Löfven as PM.

  • Sixth is yet to come… on December 5. Stay tuned.

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