Social Democrat leader Stefan Löfven has been voted out of the job by a majority of parliament – the first Swedish prime minister to be ousted in such a vote.
A total of 204 of Sweden’s 349 members of parliament voted no to Löfven as prime minister on Tuesday morning. No one abstained, 142 voted for Löfven and three MPs were not present in the chamber.
“Today, after the election, we’re doing what we promised before the election,” the Moderates’ Ulf Kristersson, leader of the largest party in the centre-right Alliance opposition, told parliament ahead of the vote. “To the Alliance it is obvious that Sweden needs a new government.”
Anders Ygeman, the group leader of the Social Democrats in parliament, argued that Sweden’s September 9th election gave 143 seats to the four-party Alliance and 144 seats to the centre-left bloc of the Social Democrats, Greens and Left Party. The centre-right however has argued that the Left Party is not formally part of government and should therefore not be counted as part of the centre-left bloc.
The Social Democrats, Greens and Left voted for Löfven, while the Moderates, Centre, Liberals, Christian Democrats and the Sweden Democrats voted against him.
It will now be up to speaker of parliament Andreas Norlén to ask another party leader to try to form a government. Löfven is however set to lead a caretaker government during the weeks or months it is expected to take to find a new head of government.
Löfven told reporters after the vote that he remained prepared to stay on as prime minister if asked to do so by the speaker, saying he wanted to negotiate across the political divide to seek bi-partisan compromises.
“It is my wish to continue serving our country as prime minister. I want to lead a government that enjoys broad support in Sweden’s parliament, so that we can leave bloc politics behind and take the country forward,” he said.
Elections on September 9th left neither of Sweden’s main blocs with an absolute majority, with just one seat separating the centre-left (Social Democrats and the Green Party) and the centre-right Alliance (Moderate Party, Centre Party, Christian Democrats, and Liberals).
The Sweden Democrats are the third largest group, and some right-wing MPs have suggested cooperation with the far-right party. The Centre Party and Liberals have said they would quit the Alliance if the Moderates and Christian Democrats were to negotiate a deal – for example on immigration – with the far-right in exchange for their support.
Another alternative would be for the Alliance to reach a compromise with the Social Democrats on big political issues, such as the autumn budget.
Tuesday morning’s confidence motion follows an important day on Monday, which saw Norlén of the centre-right Moderates elected parliamentary speaker, apparently thanks to the support of the far-right. Although the vote was anonymous, the anti-immigration Sweden Democrats had indicated they would support the Moderate Party’s candidate, likely hoping for support for their own candidates in exchange.
Their candidate Björn Söder lost out on a deputy speaker post in parliament though, after losing votes for the roles of second and third deputy speaker. The position of second deputy speaker usually goes to a member of the third largest bloc or party, which would be the Sweden Democrats, and Söder was the incumbent in the role, but Left Party candidate Lotta Johnsson Fornarve was chosen as second deputy speaker and the Centre Party’s Kerstin Lundgren as third deputy speaker.