Before next year’s general election, the Social Democrats may have time to present an alternative to the most conservative opposition ever seen in Sweden, writes Maria Oskarson.
By Maria Oskarson
International Politics and Society
It was supposed to be a done deal. But then, Nov. 25 became a remarkably messy day in Swedish politics. After Prime Minister Stefan Löfven announced his resignation in August, many had anticipated a smooth transition.
However, the transfer of power turned out to be surprisingly turbulent, a perfect illustration of the polarized, fragmented and fragile situation in the Swedish parliament – ever since the highly controversial and populist Sweden Democrats gained representation in 2010.
What had happened? As expected, Magdalena Andersson, elected new leader of the Social Democratic Party on Nov. 4, was approved by Parliament as prime minister on Nov. 25 with votes from her own party and their supposed coalition partner, the Greens, while the Left Party and the Centre Party merely tolerated the minority coalition.
But then, hours later, the vote on the budget followed. In protest against a planned pension increase, the Centre Party surprisingly broke the agreement and supported the opposition’s budget proposal, providing it with a majority trumping the new minority government’s draft budget.
As a consequence, the Greens quit the coalition with the Social Democrats, refusing to work with a budget supported by the nationalist conservative Sweden Democrats. Hence, after only seven hours in office, Andersson had to resign. When a few days later, Parliament again approved her as prime minister, she was now at the head of a one-party, minority government.
Who is Magdalena Andersson?
Andersson is a well-known and highly regarded personality in Swedish politics. She was widely perceived as a very competent minister of finance, having served in that role from 2014 until 2021. During her tenure, she continued the policy of fiscal austerity, implemented by earlier Social-Democratic governments ever since the financial crisis hit Sweden in the early 1990s. She repeatedly stated that she wanted to “save in the barns for worse days to come.” Her political and ideological profile remained somewhat blurry.
However, in May 2021, Andersson led a group within the Social Democratic Party that published a report titled “Distributional policies for equality and fairness.” This report has been labelled a reckoning with the social developments in Sweden during the last 40 years, pointing a finger at the rising inequalities that emerged from political decisions by previous governments, both right and left.
The report concludes with a number of reform proposals, ranging from tax reforms to measures strengthening the welfare sector and social insurance systems. It was widely regarded as an ideological statement, based on traditional social-democratic ideas and values, and was quite well received by the increasingly vocal left wing of the Social Democrats.