July 29, 2021

Swedish prime minister overthrown in parliament amid liberalized housing market

This is a first in Swedish political history. The Prime Minister, the Social Democrat Stefan Löfven, was overthrown on Monday June 21 by a vote of no confidence in Parliament, which gives him a week to either submit his resignation or call new elections.

The reason ? A project, still preliminary, to reform regulated rents, one of the totems of the Swedish Social Democratic Party (SAP), which sees it as one of the pillars of the national social model, despite a completely saturated rental market. The proposal, which appears in the so-called “January” government agreement signed in early 2019, provides for free rents for new constructions, and therefore more expensive rentals. When presenting the agreement, “Many commentators had pointed out that the liberalization of the housing market was a time bomb”, underlines Anders Sannerstedt, political scientist at Lund University.

Dissent erupted on Thursday, when the Left Party (V) announced its intention to vote no confidence. The last-minute compromises will have been in vain: on Sunday, the government attempted a final maneuver to try to defuse the crisis, by proposing to open negotiations with donor organizations.

But the leader of the V, Nooshi Dadgostar, declared an inadmissibility, deeming the hindsight insufficient. “My feeling is that there is a very strong lack of sense of compromise when you cannot give up a single point to avoid a government crisis”, she said Monday morning shortly before the vote.

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Eleven unsuccessful votes of no confidence in history

As a result of a turnaround last week by the Left Party, hitherto ad hoc support from the executive, the censorship of the head of government was supported by an absolute majority of 181 deputies out of 349 seats, according to the result of the vote. To bring down the government, all the voices of the ex-Communist Party came to mingle with all those of the far right Sweden Democrats as well as the right – conservative Party of Moderates and Christian Democrats.

After eleven unsuccessful votes of no confidence in Swedish political history, Stefan Löfven, who had so far distinguished himself by his ability to survive political crises, becomes the first head of government to be overthrown in this way. The latter called a press conference at 11:30 a.m.

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The former metallurgy unionist, in power since 2014, now has a week to either announce early elections in the middle of the summer, or resign for good. He would then leave it to the President of Parliament to open negotiations with a party to find a new prime minister … who could however be Stefan Löfven again, analysts say.

Subtlety of the Swedish Constitution: in the event of early elections, they would be added to the ballot scheduled for September 2022, which would lead to two legislative elections in just over a year. “For a long time, the minority government seemed to be able to hold out until the end of the mandate, but the differences inherent in the base of government eventually became too great”, underlined Mats Knutson, political analyst of Swedish public television.

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A departure for a return?

“Placing Sweden in a serious political crisis right now is not what our country needs”, pleaded Mr. Löfven Sunday. In place since January 2019 after four months of negotiations which followed the 2018 elections, his center-left government brings together the Social Democrats and the Greens. To secure a majority, he reached an agreement with two other parties – the Center Party and the Liberals – with less clear support from the Left Party, which had already issued unsuccessful ultimatums.

What scenario for the future? ” I think that [Löfven] will resign ”, anticipates Anders Sannerstedt. According to him, “Nobody wants an additional election” and “The Social Democrats would lose a lot of votes, according to the latest polls”. Another option would be for Moderate leader Ulf Kristersson, who has opened the door in recent months to talks with Sweden’s Democrats, to be tasked with forming a majority.

The World with AFP