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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Swedish PM’s top aide resigns over illegal eel fishing

One of Swedish Prime Minister Ulf Kristersson's top aides has resigned from his post after it emerged that he had been fined by police for illegally fishing for eels and had twice lied to the authorities about what happened.

Swedish PM's top aide resigns over illegal eel fishing

PM Nilsson lied twice to police about eel fishing equipment he was caught with, the second time after he was appointed as state secretary at the end of October. 

After the resignation, Kristersson said he was disappointed that Nilsson, who had previously been a columnist for the Dagens Industri newspaper, had had to step down. 

“I think of course that it is unfortunate that this situation has come about, but I understand his decision,” he said in a written comment to the TT newswire. “PM Nilsson has been a highly appreciated member of the team and is a highly competent person. We are going to miss him.” 

READ ALSO: Why a political aide’s eel denial is causing friction in Sweden

Nilsson announced his decision on Facebook, saying that he had already apologised and paid the fines. 

“I understand how improper it is to fish for eels without a permit and to not tell things as they were to the authorities, even if I have since then rung the police and admitted that I had caught 15 fish,” he wrote in the post. 

Nilsson was recently fined for poaching eel in 2021, and has admitted to having lied to police in a conversation just before Christmas when he claimed that the eel-fishing equipment he had been caught with was not his. He later regretted this decision and informed the police.  

In his Facebook post, Nilsson referred to media reports that police were now investigating him for a further crime of contravening a law to protect endangered species, saying he did not know if this were the case. 

The opposition Social Democrats on Monday referred Ulf Kristersson to the parliament’s Committee on the Constitution, requiring him to explain the situation around Nilsson, and about whether Kristersson knew of the poaching incident when he appointed him, and also on the security vetting which took place. 

“We need to get clarity about how the process of recruiting him took place,” Ardalan Shekarabi, the party’s justice spokesman, said. “What we are chiefly reacting against is that the state secretary lied to the authorities.”