No-confidence motion against Sweden’s Defence Minister collapses as two opposition parties back out

Two of the four parties in Sweden's centre-right Alliance coalition have announced that they will not back a no-confidence motion the same group threatened to bring forward against Defence Minister Peter Hultqvist, arguing that new information had changed the situation.

No-confidence motion against Sweden's Defence Minister collapses as two opposition parties back out
Defence Minister Peter Hultqvist has been in the firing line of the four Alliance parties. Photo: Peter Hultqvist

In July, the Alliance announced it would launch a motion of no confidence against three government ministers over a data leak that made top secret police databases available to foreign IT workers. Swedish PM Stefan Löfven responded with a cabinet reshuffle that removed two of the ministers targeted by the motion – then Infrastructure Minister Anna Johansson and Interior Minister Anders Ygeman – but left the third, Defence Minister Hultqvist untouched.

READ ALSO: Opposition pushes ahead with no-confidence motion

The Alliance – made up of the Moderates, Centre Party, Christian Democrats and Liberals – initially said it would push ahead as planned with a motion against Hultqvist, but on Thursday afternoon the leaders of the Centre Party and Liberals revealed a change of heart.

“The factual grounds for no-confidence against Hultqvist have fallen,” Centre Party leader Annie Lööf wrote on Twitter.

“Since July new information has emerged. That changes the assessment. The Centre Party will not vote for a no-confidence motion – the Riksdag's strongest weapon – against a minister if there are not justified grounds for it,” she continued.

READ ALSO: The Swedish no-confidence motion explained

Liberal leader Jan Björklund said his party would no longer back a motion and instead allow an ongoing investigation into the matter by Sweden’s Committee on the Constitution to do its work.

“The Liberals will now not continue with bringing forward or supporting a no-confidence motion against the Defence Minister. The Committee on the Constitution’s investigation will be allowed to continue,” he wrote on his Twitter profile.

The original plan was for the four Alliance parties to reach a joint agreement on the matter, but Lööf admitted at a snap press conference on Thursday afternoon that they were unable to find consensus. Her media meeting was hastily put together after the Liberals called a snap press conference of their own.

“New information has come forward that could impact the assessment,” Björklund told journalists in Stockholm, adding that “we are four parties and that means we sometimes make different evaluations and that is what has happened in this matter”.

The Moderates, who are the largest party in the Alliance, said they will discuss the issue among their Riksdag group before communicating any further decision, while the Christian Democrats said they continue to support a motion of no-confidence.

The difference in opinions marks a further example of divisions within the Alliance, who have disagreed before this year. In January the Moderates broke a longstanding taboo by opening the door to the anti-immigration Sweden Democrats, which both the Centre Party and Liberals opposed. The two parties also opposed a threat from Moderate leader Anna Kinberg-Batra to topple the current minority Swedish government by submitting a rival budget before 2018's election.

READ ALSO: Could crisis in the opposition bring a new political climate in Sweden?

The Sweden Democrats meanwhile said on Friday that nothing had changed from their perspective. They will attempt to bring a no-confidence motion against PM Löfven at the Riksdag on Friday, but the Alliance does not support it.