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POLITICS

Who is Magdalena Andersson, the woman likely to be Sweden’s next prime minister?

After Sweden's Prime Minister Stefan Löfven stepped down as party leader, the search is on for his replacement. Here's a look at the strong favourite for the role, and what needs to happen for her to become PM.

Who is Magdalena Andersson, the woman likely to be Sweden's next prime minister?
Will Finance Minister Magdalena Andersson become the next Swedish prime minister? Photo: Henrik Montgomery/TT

The current Finance Minister Magdalena Andersson looks likely to be selected as Löfven’s successor.

She’s had her current job during all three Löfven governments, and previously held several high-ranking posts both in the Finance Ministry as well as being senior director at the Swedish Tax Agency.

You’re most likely to recognise her from Sweden’s budget announcements, when she can be seen carrying the document wrapped in blue and yellow ribbon.

A trained economist, she studied at Stockholm School of Economics, in Vienna, and at Harvard University in the US. In her younger years, she was a competitive swimmer.

A few things need to happen before she officially replaces Löfven, and that doesn’t mean she’d automatically become PM.

There are 26 “party districts” for the Social Democrats in Sweden, and so far four of them have nominated Andersson as the party’s next leader: Fyrbodal, Halland, Skaraborg and the powerful Skåne district. The party’s youth wing has also said it’s backing Andersson.

She has been tight-lipped about her potential new job though, refusing to comment to the TT newswire on the process or even whether the districts asked her whether she wanted the role. Districts are not required to speak directly to their nominee, and Halland and Skaraborg have both said they didn’t have contact with the Finance Minister.

In fact, no Social Democrat has openly declared an interest in becoming prime minister, with most senior ministers referring to the role of the Nomination Committee. Other possible candidates would be Justice and Migration Minister Morgan Johansson and Interior Minister Mikael Damberg for example, but Andersson has emerged as the clear front-runner. She also has the most support from Social Democrat voters by far, according to a Novus survey carried out for SVT in August where almost half of respondents said Andersson was their preferred leader.

The districts have until October 1st to submit their choice, and the election will take place at the party congress in early November in Gothenburg. This will also be the moment when current Prime Minister Stefan Löfven will request resignation.

But to actually take up the role as head of government, Andersson would then need to pass a parliamentary vote, which requires a majority of MPs not to vote against her (in other words, a majority must vote for her or abstain). That’s not a safe guarantee, given the current tight margins in parliament.

If she is voted in by parliament, Andersson will have two immediate challenges. The first is the autumn budget, where the government may be at a disadvantage since the Liberal Party left the four-party agreement that allowed previous government budgets to be passed. And the other major task would be preparing for the September 2022 election, where the Social Democrats will be hoping to recover some of the losses made in its 2018 result, the worst in a century for the centre-left.

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POLITICS

EU chief von der Leyen wins second term

European Commission President Ursula von der Leyen on Thursday won a second five-year term that she vowed would tackle the EU's challenges head-on, including bolstering its defence capability and strengthening Europe's industry.

EU chief von der Leyen wins second term

The German ex-defence minister, who became the first woman leader of the European Commission in 2019, had presented herself as the best and most experienced captain to steer the commission.

Von der Leyen received votes backing her from 401 MEPs in the 720-seat chamber in the French city of Strasbourg — over the 361-vote majority she needed to remain head of the EU’s executive body.

There were 284 lawmakers who voted against in the secret ballot, held during the first parliamentary session since EU-wide elections in June.

An elated von der Leyen pumped fists in the air after parliament speaker Roberta Metsola announced the result.

She later said it was “a very emotional and special moment for me” and the result “sends a strong message of confidence”.

Von der Leyen’s first term was full of crises including the coronavirus pandemic and the outbreak of war in Ukraine.

“We have navigated the most troubled waters that our union has ever faced,” she told reporters.

Von der Leyen however faces another difficult five years, with rising expectations that former US president Donald Trump will return to the White House after elections later this year.

And with conflicts in and near Europe, von der Leyen insisted on the need for a “strong Europe” during a “period of deep anxiety and uncertainty”.

Other issues in her in-tray are the risk of a wider conflict in the Middle East and the EU’s trade tensions with China.

Not a ‘blank cheque’

European leaders were quick to offer their congratulations.

British Prime Minister Keir Starmer, whose recent victory has many hoping for better EU-UK ties, said on X: “I look forward to working closely with you to reset the relationship between the UK and the European Union.”

German Chancellor Olaf Scholz and Polish Prime Minister Donald Tusk hailed the result, vowing she would deliver for Europe.

Von der Leyen’s re-election was “a clear sign of our ability to act in the European Union, especially in difficult times,” Scholz said.

“Times are hard, but with your courage and determination, I’m sure you’ll do a great job. We will do, together,” Tusk, an ex-top EU official, said.

Reaching this point had been rocky. The EU’s 27 leaders fiercely debated her candidacy in June before putting von der Leyen’s name forward as their continuity pick.

Von der Leyen belongs to the biggest political group in the parliament, the conservative European People’s Party, which is in a centrist coalition with the Socialists and Democrats and the liberal Renew Europe groups.

She spent weeks seeking to convince different parties to give her support.

Despite the Socialists and Democrats group backing her, the group stressed it did not mean a “blank cheque”.

“Our job begins now. We will continue working to put our social imprint in all EU policies for the next five years,” the group’s leader, Iratxe Garcia Perez, said in a statement.

Boosting competitivity

Von der Leyen vowed earlier on Thursday to boost Europe’s competitiveness by ensuring major investment in key industries including defence.

But she also insisted the EU would not deviate from ambitious climate goals that entail reducing greenhouse gas emissions by 90 percent by 2040.

She said she would create a new commissioner to tackle Europe’s housing crisis, strengthen the EU’s border agency Frontex, triple the number of border guards and reinforce the bloc’s efforts against disinformation.

Her promises to better defend the EU’s borders sought to satisfy her EPP allies but also the far-right ECR group dominated by Italian Prime Minister Giorgia Meloni’s party.

Now von der Leyen will have to get to work choosing her next cabinet of commissioners to work on EU policy.

Once she has named her team, they, too, will have to face the parliament for confirmation hearings in the autumn.

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