After Shock Resignation of Sweden’s Prime Minister, What’s Next?
(Bloomberg) -- Swedish Prime Minister Magdalena Andersson, who was in her new job for less than 8 hours, is on track to be appointed again on Monday.
The 54-year-old former finance minister’s first stint as leader came to an abrupt end because the Green Party quit the center-left coalition after its budget bill was defeated in parliament.
For outsiders, it was a shock to see Sweden’s first female leader resign on her first day. In truth, it’s another reflection of how hard it has become to govern the biggest Nordic nation as well as a comedy of errors by politicians who failed to grasp the constitutional implications of their actions.
Here is a guide to what to expect next.
1. So is that it for Andersson?
No. She’ll likely be re-appointed next week. The resignation was a necessary formality after the Greens pulled out. The parliamentary speaker nominated her again on Thursday after consulting with leaders of the eight parties in parliament. The Greens and two other parties have indicated they will abstain, but not oppose her. That means it is likely that she will be re-appointed, in a vote scheduled for Monday, although not exactly with much support.
2. What a mess. How did we get here?
When Andersson’s predecessor as party leader of the Social Democrats, Stefan Lofven, unexpectedly announced in August that he would resign, his finance minister of seven years was widely seen as the apparent heir. However, for her to secure the top seat she needed to navigate a fractured and evolving political landscape, upended by the rise of the nationalist Sweden Democrats.
Lofven had built his minority coalition with the Green Party on an agreement with two center-right parties as well as tacit support from the former communists of the Left Party. By the time Andersson was elected the situation had changed: One of the center-right parties broke loose from the accord, and the leftists took a more assertive stance, demanding concessions from Andersson to accept her candidacy.
On the eve of her election, a last-minute deal secured her the support she needed to be appointed. However, crucially, the outcome of a budget vote scheduled for the same day was less apparent, and when the center-right party most closely aligned with the government said it wouldn’t help get it passed, it was clear that a competing opposition bill would determine spending plans for 2022.
3. Hang on. So did she have to resign at all?
While Andersson said she could still govern based on the opposition’s budget amendments, the prospect of defeat was harder for the Greens to swallow, and when it was clear the government bill would lose, they immediately hinted they might not want to continue in government.
This took Sweden into uncharted territory, and during the day word got out via constitutional experts that a Green Party defection would trigger Andersson’s resignation and a new vote. Just before 5 p.m., Green Party leaders announced their withdrawal and that forced Andersson’s hand.
At the same time, the latest debacle could have been easily avoided, according to the parliament’s speaker, Andreas Norlen. Had he known that the Greens might quit the government if it lost the budget vote, he would have scheduled the PM vote for a later date, he said at a press conference where he called Wednesday’s events “deeply regrettable.”
4. Who is running the country now?
Power has reverted to the caretaker cabinet led by Lofven, until a new one is in place. Andersson admitted the process looked “messy” but said it was necessary because she didn’t want to lead a government “whose legitimacy might be questioned.” She now stands to lead a one-party cabinet.
5. Why are Sweden’s politics more turbulent now?
The emergence of the nationalist Sweden Democrats over the last decade has sapped support from the mainstream political parties and made it increasingly difficult to form stable coalitions.
The country’s political landscape has long been a two-horse race between a relatively unified center-right and a bloc of left-leaning parties led by the Social Democrats, but immigration has emerged as a major source of angst among voters and has complicated the picture in a country that has taken pride in its progressive values and multicultural society.
The nationalists were initially shunned universally because of their roots in the neo-Nazi movement and recurring incidents of party representatives expressing racist views. However, as their support has grown, some parties are adamant they want to keep the Sweden Democrats out of government at all costs. Others have opened the door and want to engage with the new reality.
6. There is an election in less than 10 months? Will that fix things?
Polls suggest that neither the Social Democrat-led constellation nor the conservative-nationalist camp have a clear lead at this point.
Surveys also show that policies on crime, migration and integration remain among the top priorities for Swedish voters, and in the election, scheduled for Sept. 11, 2022, the rising political instability may help the nationalists get a shot at power. Over the past year, traditional right-wing politicians have accepted that they may need to cut a deal to give the anti-immigrant force a say in government.
The Social Democrats, meanwhile, hope that Magdalena Andersson’s high approval ratings will withstand her disastrous start and that she can lead the party to another election win.
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