Sweden’s Parliamentary Election Crisis
“Sweden has always been extremely stable when it comes to our governments …”and the time it takes to form them.
After the election in 2014 (we have elections every four years) the government took office 19 days later. Until this year, in fact, it has never taken more than 25 days after an election to form a government; the average time is just six days.
Today, however, 86 days have passed since Sweden’s last election without a government having formed – a record by a wide margin.
Sweden’s national parliament consists of 349 members, divided in eight parties, of which seven formed blocs:
Left Wing party (V): extremely left wing on economic policies, globalism, liberal on immigration. 28 seats.
Green party (MP): environmentalist, for raising taxes, extremely liberal on immigration. 16 seats.
Social Democrats (S): largest party, historically almost always in power, more to the center than V and MP but still on the left. Also liberal on immigration but less than MP and V. 100 seats.
Liberal bloc (named the Alliance coalition):
Center party (C): liberal economic policies which means lowering taxes and making it easier to hire and fire. Extremely liberal on immigration and values (supporting feminism, affirmative action, hate speech laws, gender policies etc). 31 seats.
Liberal party (L): similar to Center party. More focus on pro-EU. 20 seats.
Christian Democrats (KD): liberal economic policies (lowering taxes, easier to hire and fire etc), a bit more conservative on values and culture (less feminism, affirmative action, gender policies etc). 22 seats.
The Moderates (M): the second largest party and historically the party that has competed with the Social Democrats for the post of the prime minister. They are also liberal on economic issues and used to be extremely liberal on immigration. They did, however, change drastically in the last few years, due to the success of the Sweden Democrats. 70 seats.
- The Sweden Democrats (SD): new kid on the “bloc”. Entered parliament as late as 2010. Economically liberal too, but with more focus than the Alliance on upholding the welfare state. Conservative on matters of culture and values. Emphasis on anti-immigration, anti-EU. Pro-nuclear power; tough on crime and border control. 62 seats.
The political system in Sweden has been named the “politics of the blocs,” as, until the appearance of the Sweden Democrats, those two different sides — three socialist and four liberals — formed blocs with each other to reach majority in parliament.
What has changed since this year’s election was the continued growth of the anti-immigration Sweden Democrats’ (SD) party combined with the fact that members of the Alliance coalition — who want to lower taxes and make it easier for companies to hire and fire, and are pro-EU — learned a lesson after they voluntary gave away power after the election in 2014 to the socialist parties, whose members want to raise taxes, put restrictions on companies and focus more on gender and environmentalist policies.
In the 2010 election, a new party, the Sweden Democrats (SD) — the main focus of which was to stop the extreme mass immigration to Sweden — entered the parliament, thereby forming a third block in parliament.
In the graph below, the parties are dotted along the GAL-TAN scale, where the horizontal line depicts the parties’ positions on the economic scale (socialist to liberal) and the vertical line depicts the parties positions on the value scale (GAL: Green, Alternative, Libertarian; TAN: Traditional, Authoritarian, Nationalist):
Surrender to the Socialists
To everyone’s shock, after the 2014 election, the liberal Alliance-parties gave power to their arch-enemies on the Socialist block merely to keep the SD from political influence – a decision that completely shut out the SD and let the Socialists run the country for four straight years.
This astounding decision, named “the December agreement”, came to take a huge toll on the Alliance-parties: the voters did not like this unconditional surrender to the Socialists. People who voted for the Alliance had expected to get liberal economic policies advanced, not socialist ones.
This year, before the 2018 years election in September, the Alliance had sworn not to repeat the same mistake. In the September election, however, the new anti-immigration SD, grew from 12.9% to 17.5%, mostly due to ever more people getting fed up with Sweden’s extremely high immigration.
In response, two parties from the Alliance-coalition — the Center party (C) and the Liberal party (L) — made it their highest priority, once again, to not let the SD have any political influence.
Voting against their own candidate
In essence, those two parties repeated the “December agreement”, in which they gave political power to the Socialist bloc just to keep SD from having any. This time, however, the other two members of the Alliance-parties, the Moderates (M) and the Christian Democrats (KD), refused to repeat that decision. Instead, their members said they were willing to form a government with the support of SD – but without negotiating with them.
This split inside the Alliance coalition led to complications when forming a government. L and C first said they would never support the current Social Democrat party leader Stefan Löfven, who until six weeks ago was also Sweden’s prime minister, for the post of prime minister again. So, L and C voted no to Löfven. On September 25, he was ousted, 204 votes to 142.
When, on November 14, L and C then had a chance to for their own candidate, Ulf Kristersson of the Moderate party, part of their own coalition, to win — they voted no to him too. He also failed to become prime minister; there were 195 votes against him and 154 in support.
The reason he apparently lost was that a government led by Kristersson would require the backing of SD – which L and C reject due to SD’s negative stance on immigration.
Now, after two no-votes, the speaker of the house Andreas Norlén, after having met all the party leaders several times during the past 85 days, has said he will once more test what support there is for Löfven (S). According to his Norlén’s analysis, after the Center party failed to find a government solution, “there is a new situation”.
Exactly what “situation” he thinks is “new” is still unclear: no deals or agreements between the Center party, Liberal party and the socialists have been presented.
Both the party leaders from C and L seem to be willing, once more, to let their arch-enemy, the Social Democrats, come to power and rule simply to keep SD from having any power. For C and L, the most important issue Sweden is to keep extremely open immigration, which SD opposes. SD was formed, in fact, to stop it.
The chance of Sweden forming a government with the two remaining members of the Alliance coalition, M and KD, supported by SD, is currently zero. These three parties would have a majority against them in parliament from the other five parties; the socialists plus C and L.
Betrayal or re-election
The only chance to form a government in the current situation — unless C and L suddenly change stance on SD, which seems unlikely — is if C and L desert the Alliance coalition and move over to the “enemy” socialist bloc. That is where the discussions are at the moment.
This morning, December 5, we will get more information from speaker Norlén when a third vote on who is going to be prime minister will be held. Once again, Löfven (S) will most likely be running for the position. If C and L betray their Alliance-coalition and supports Löfven, he wins; if negotiations fail, he loses for the second time.
If Löfven is not elected tomorrow, the speaker of the house legally has two more tries to get parliamentary approval for a prime minister. If those tries fail, Sweden will have a re-election
, for the first time since 1958.
There are a lot of ins and outs that would be hard to describe here, but probably we will not have a re-election.
The main reason Sweden will probably not have a re-election is that if we did, the party that would have the most to gain is SD – which all the other parties are fervently trying to stop.
Also, if there were a re-election, both the Liberal party and the Green party have a high likelihood of failing to get enough votes even to get into parliament.
In fact, out of the 349 seats in Swedish parliament, it would take only 21 more seats to go to SD, M or KD for these three parties to get a majority in parliament.
Additionally, as both L and MP would risk getting voted out of parliament, while SD, and possibly KD too, would stand to gain more seats, a re-election could very well put these three parties, M, KD and SD, above the 175 seats needed for a majority in parliament.
This combination, were a re-election to occur, means that a new bloc could be formed, in which the Moderates and Christian Democrats would form a government, supported by SD. Call it a conservative-ish government.
This is a scenario that the socialists, together with the Center and the Liberal parties, would want to avoid at all costs. So, for that reason C and L will probably strike a deal with the socialists. A deal would mean that that they will avoid a re-election and thus avoid the risk of a conservative-ish government being formed. Instead, there would be another four years possibly, of a socialist government, supported by C and L.
The list of demands that C and L proposed to the socialists, however, would be hard for them to accept.
Yesterday afternoon, December 4, the Center party warned the Social Democrats that the offer they were given was a “hostile bid” and warned them that they have “once last chance” to better the deal, or C would vote no to the socialists, thus stopping them from a achieving victory for the post of prime minister once more, and taking Sweden one step closer to a re-election.
Speaker Norlén also confirmed that “government negotiations” are now ongoing and have postponed the date until December 10, when Löfven will report to him on how the negotiations have gone.
Some of us are hoping to have that re-election – Sweden needs it – but do not think it will happen. We are hoping to be wrong.