A single lawmaker’s vote could spell the end for Sweden’s Stefan Löfven

STOCKHOLM — The resolution of a summer of political uncertainty in Sweden could hang on a single lawmaker’s vote. 

Prime Minister Stefan Löfven resigned Monday after losing the confidence of key allies last week and, following Swedish conventions, he must now convince the speaker of parliament, Andreas Norlén, to give him a chance to form a coalition government if he is to return to power.

In Löfven’s favor is the fact that his Social Democrats and its partners — the Green Party, the Center Party and the Left Party — have a one-parliamentary-seat advantage over their opponents, a bloc made up of the center-right Moderate Party, Christian Democrats, Liberals and the far-right Sweden Democrats (SD). 

But that means that if it were to come to a vote on Löfven’s candidacy as prime minister, every single lawmaker on his side would need to attend parliament and press the right button. If someone were to fall ill or get stuck in a lift, Löfven’s return could be scuppered. 

Such is the instability of Swedish politics today. 

Since the emergence of SD as a political force in 2010, the share of votes available to the traditional parties of the left and right has been shrinking and the coalitions they have cobbled together have become shakier. 

Löfven’s time in power since 2014 has been beset with uncertainty, with allies threatening to bring him down over issues ranging from immigration to labor market policy. In the end, it was the relatively narrow issue of rent controls that caused Löfven’s government to collapse last week, while other tensions within his left-leaning bloc — especially between the Left Party and Center Party — remain unresolved.

It is a pattern visible across much of Europe, where the rise of far-right parties in countries including Denmark, Germany and Estonia has remade political landscapes.

On Monday, Löfven reiterated his refusal to work with SD, a party with roots in 1990s neo-Nazism. 

“The only party I exclude working with is the Sweden Democrats because their values are so far away from what I believe is good for our society,” Löfven told a news conference. 

On this issue, Löfven’s Social Democrats and the Center Party agree completely, meaning Löfven believes he can count on all 31 of that party’s seats for his planned comeback. 

But that would have to include Helena Lindahl, a Center Party lawmaker from the far north. 

In 2019, she defied her party and came out against Löfven’s candidacy as prime minister in a vote he ultimately won; she was the only Center Party lawmaker to vote against him. If she were to do that again, Löfven’s bid to see out his second term as prime minister could flounder.

In a post on social media last week, after Löfven lost the vote of no confidence, Lindahl gave Löfven little reason for optimism. 

“Stefan Löfven has fallen and that is nothing I am sorry about … I see no reason to change my mind about cooperation with Stefan Löfven … he has had his chance and the results have not been good,” she wrote. 

Lindahl did not respond to a request on Monday about how she would vote in the event of a new candidacy by Löfven as prime minister this summer. 

Another potential unknown is Amineh Kakabaveh, a lawmaker who quit the Left Party in 2019 and now sits as an independent. She has not said how she would vote but last week she showed the power she might hold. 

“If we face the formation of a new government, there is every chance my vote could be decisive,” she told parliament. 

For Löfven, the narrow road back to power begins Tuesday morning with a meeting with speaker Norlen at 10 a.m. It is unclear where it will end.

“It’s what’s best for the country that is important here,” Löfven said. “If I am called upon, then of course I am ready.”

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