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POLITICS

UPDATE: Swedish Prime Minister Stefan Löfven to resign

Swedish Prime Minister Stefan Löfven announced on Sunday that he will step down as party leader this autumn, a year ahead of Sweden’s next election.

UPDATE: Swedish Prime Minister Stefan Löfven to resign
Swedish Prime Minister Stefan Löfven giving a speech on August 22nd. Photo: Henrik Montgomery/TT

Former trade union chief Löfven took the reins of the Social Democrats in 2012 and led his party to two successful elections in 2014 and 2018. But a new leader will take over ahead of the 2022 election, Löfven said in a speech on Sunday.

He will step down at the party’s congress in November.

Löfven, 64, came into politics after heading up one of Sweden’s most powerful trade unions, IF Metall, following a career as a welder.

He is known for his negotiation skills, and he’s had ample opportunity to flex them during his tenure, but the party has been struggling in the polls.

Just months after taking power, his party failed to push its budget through, and Löfven called a snap election, but this was cancelled after crisis talks. In the next election in 2018, his party got its worst result in over a century, and it took four months of negotiations before a new government was put together.

Earlier this summer, he became Sweden’s first prime minister in history to lose a no-confidence vote, following a row over rent controls. However, the opposition was unable to form a viable coalition to take over, and so Löfven returned to the helm again, only two weeks later.

Löfven announced his resignation at his annual summer speech, this year held in Åkersberga near Stockholm.

“The decision has matured over time. I have been party chairman for ten years, prime minister for seven. These years have been amazing. But everything comes to an end. I want to give my successor the best of conditions,” he said.

Löfven has led a weak minority government together with the Greens Party for the past three years, struggling to find a workable coalition following the inconclusive elections of September 2018.

The announcement of his resignation came nonetheless as a surprise, as Löfven had previously indicated he wanted to lead the party in the next election campaign.

But Ewa Stenberg, political commentator at Swedish newspaper Dagens Nyheter, said it was a wise decision on his part.

“Lofven’s not a good election campaigner or debater, he’s not the leader the Social Democrats need in a tough election campaign where rhetoric is important,” she wrote.

“Against that background, it’s logical that he hands over to someone who’s better with words and who can spark enthusiasm.”

Woman as next PM?
It is not yet known who will succeed Löfven as party leader, though Stenberg and other political commentators speculated that Finance Minister Magdalena Andersson was a hot tip.

Andersson has held the finance portfolio for seven years, and has on occasion stood in for the prime minister.

Health Minister Lena Hallengren, who like Andersson enjoys relatively high ratings among the public, especially for her handling of the Covid-19 pandemic, was also mentioned as a possible successor.

Despite being a longstanding champion of women’s rights and gender equality, Sweden, unlike its Nordic neighbours, has yet to have a woman prime minister.

Whoever is elected to succeed Löfven as party leader would have to be approved by parliament in order to take over as prime minister.

Since coming to power in 2014, Löfven has weathered the decline of social democracy in Europe, the rise of the far right and even the pandemic.

Member comments

  1. You can’t first say “Löfven […] led his party to two successful elections in 2014 and 2018” and then a few lines further down in the same article write “[…] in 2018, his party got its worst result in over a century, and it took four months of negotiations before a new government was put together.” The 2018 election was hardly “successful” but instead was a downright godawful disaster for both Löfven and his social-democrat party, and indeed for Sweden as a whole.

    The only thing Löfven has done in the last seven years is to sell Sweden down the river to the extremist 4-percent Miljöpartiet, and would not be in power at all if it wasn’t for the Centre and Liberal parties’ betrayal of their own electorate.

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POLITICS

Sweden asks Nato to focus more on China to win US support

Sweden has called for Nato to step up efforts on China as a way to ensure support from the United States, where presidential candidate Donald Trump has loudly criticized the alliance.

Sweden asks Nato to focus more on China to win US support

In Washington for the 75th anniversary summit of the alliance, the top diplomat of its newest member said a Nato without the United States would be “unthinkable” and lack credibility.

“If you want your partner to think about the things you think are a problem, you have to show commitment to their problems, and the American people are more concerned with the threat that China poses than Russia, for obvious reasons,” Foreign Minister Tobias Billström said.

The alliance needs to keep facing Russia but Asia “should also be recognized as part of Nato’s concerns, headaches,” he said at the Carnegie Endowment for International Peace.

Billström said that Sweden – which turned the page on two centuries of military non-alignment and joined Nato after Russia’s invasion of Ukraine – threw support behind the alliance opening a liaison office in Tokyo.

France has been the main opponent of such an office, arguing that the North Atlantic Treaty Organization is limited in geographic scope and can rely on allies’ embassies if it needs to coordinate.

Trump, who is seeking to return to the White House, has repeatedly called Nato an unfair burden to the United States, with some of his advisors arguing that Ukraine is a distraction from a larger challenge of China.

President Joe Biden has encouraged a greater focus by Nato on Asia and invited the leaders of Japan, South Korea, Australia and New Zealand to the summit in Washington.

China earlier Tuesday lashed out at Nato, with foreign ministry spokesman Lin Jian accusing the alliance of using “China as an excuse to move eastward into the Asia-Pacific and stir up regional tensions.”

Nato Secretary-General Jens Stoltenberg ahead of the summit renewed charges that China is supporting Russia’s war in Ukraine through exports to Moscow’s defense industry.

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