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Sweden elects first female prime minister for second time in a week

Magdalena Andersson resigned last week after seven hours when her budget failed to pass, but has been re-elected.

Image: Alamy Stock Photo

Updated Nov 29th 2021, 2:28 PM

SWEDISH SOCIAL DEMOCRATIC Party leader Magdalena Andersson has been elected as the country’s prime minister today after her initial attempt last week lasted only seven hours. 

Holding 100 of 349 seats in parliament, her minority government will have to govern with the opposition’s budget following what media dubbed a “nightmarish” day in parliament last week.

On Wednesday, lawmakers elected Andersson as the country’s first woman prime minister but she resigned just hours later — before she even had a chance to formally take office — after the Green Party quit her coalition government.

Despite being a nation that has long championed gender equality, Sweden has never before had a woman as prime minister.

The 54-year-old, who is the outgoing finance minister, will now head a minority government made up solely of the Social Democrats, with 10 months to go before September general elections.

She is due to formally take over the post tomorrow, succeeding outgoing Prime Minister Stefan Lofven after his seven years in power.

A total of 101 members of parliament voted for Andersson, while 75 abstained and 173 voted against.

Under Sweden’s system, a prime ministerial candidate does not need the support of a majority in parliament; they just need to avoid a majority voting against them.

Andersson now faces a challenging period in the run-up to the election, which observers predict will be a close race. 

The parliamentary turbulence was unprecedented in politically stable Sweden, where the Social Democrats have dominated for almost a century.

The tumult began when Andersson secured a last-minute deal with the Left Party to raise pensions in exchange for its crucial backing to get her elected as prime minister.

But that agreement did not sit well with the small Centre Party, which withdrew its support for Andersson’s budget due to the concessions made to the Left.

That left Andersson’s budget with insufficient votes to pass in parliament.

Lawmakers instead adopted an alternative budget presented by the opposition conservative Moderates, Christian Democrats and far-right Sweden Democrats.

Andersson grudgingly said she would still be able to govern with that budget, but the Green Party said it could not accept a budget drafted by the far-right and quit the government.

That meant Andersson had to resign, as the basis on which she was appointed no longer existed.

While some experts say the Social Democrats will now have an easier time as the sole party in power without having to make concessions to a coalition partner, others predict a bumpy road ahead.

Andersson’s weak minority means she will have to seek support for her policies on both the left and the right.

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Her most obvious cooperation partners are the Greens, the Centre and Left parties.

But she is also expected to court the right on issues blocked by the Greens during their time in government, including the expansion of Stockholm’s Arlanda airport and a final depository for nuclear fuel waste.

Andersson has also singled out crime and immigration — key voter concerns — among her top priorities, issues where the Social Democrats are closer ideologically to the centre-right.

The opposition has however been quick to point out that the right has the strongest constellation in parliament and would likely be able to pass many of its policies without the Social Democrats.

The Moderates, Christian Democrats and Sweden Democrats are united on most issues and together control 154 seats in parliament, while the four parties on the left are more splintered.

“The Social Democrats will have to accept that it is parliament that decides and government obeys,” Moderates leader Ulf Kristersson warned.

An economist who has served as finance minister for the past seven years, Andersson took over as leader of the Social Democrats on November 4 from Stefan Lofven.

Lofven resigned as prime minister a week later after seven years in power in order to give her time to prepare for the September elections.

© AFP 2021

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