Will Sweden get its first female prime minister today?

UPDATED: Sweden's parliament is expected to confirm Social Democrat leader Magdalena Andersson as the country's first female prime minister on Wednesday morning after she secured a deal with the Left Party at the 11th hour.

Will Sweden get its first female prime minister today?
Sweden's soon-to-be Prime Minister Magdalena Andersson? Photo: Jessica Gow/TT

NEW: Magdalena Andersson becomes Sweden’s first female prime minister

The 54-year-old finance minister, who took over as leader of the Social Democrats earlier this month, reached a deal with the Left Party late on Tuesday to raise pensions in exchange for its backing in Wednesday’s vote in parliament.

“We have reached an agreement to strengthen the finances of the poorest pensioners,” Andersson told public broadcaster SVT minutes after the deal was announced.

“We’re not going to block Andersson,” Left Party leader Nooshi Dadgostar told Swedish Radio.

Under Sweden’s system, a prime ministerial candidate does not need the support of a majority in parliament – rather, they just need to not have a majority against them.

Andersson has already received the support of the Social Democrats’ coalition partner the Greens, as well as the Centre Party.

The Centre Party said on Wednesday morning that they would reject the government’s budget proposal – which parliament is set to vote on in the afternoon, after the PM vote – but the party is still expected to abstain in the vote on Andersson’s prime ministerial bid.

The votes or abstentions of all the MPs of the Greens, Left and Centre, would bring Andersson to the magic majority of 175 mandates. But it’s worth noting that the right-wing parties have 174, so the margins are tight. If only one rebel MP withdraws their support, Andersson’s candidacy could fail.

The vote will take place at 9am.

If elected, Andersson would formally take over her functions following a meeting with King Carl XVI Gustaf on Friday.

She would replace Stefan Löfven, who resigned on November 10th after seven years as prime minister in a widely expected move aimed at giving his successor time to prepare for the country’s September 2022 general election.

The Social Democrats are currently hovering close to their lowest-ever approval ratings with elections less than a year away.

The right-wing opposition, led by the conservative Moderates, has in recent years inched closer to the anti-immigration Sweden Democrats and hopes to govern with its informal backing. The two parties have put forward a joint budget proposal together with the Christian Democrats.

The Centre Party’s decision to vote no to the government’s budget means that the right-wing budget proposal will likely pass, which in turn means that current Finance Minister Andersson will have to govern on the opposition’s budget.

‘Pragmatic’ technocrat

Despite being a nation that has long championed gender equality, Sweden has never had a woman as prime minister.

All other Nordic countries – Norway, Denmark, Finland and Iceland – have seen women lead their governments.

After being confirmed as the Social Democrats’ leader, Andersson, a former junior swimming champion often described as “pragmatic” and a “technocratic bureaucrat”, outlined three political priorities going forward.

She said she wanted to “take back democratic control of schools, healthcare and elderly care”, and move away from welfare sector privatisation.

She also said she aimed to make Sweden a worldwide role model in climate transition.

And she vowed to end the segregation, shootings and bombings that have plagued the country in recent years, usually due to rival gangs settling scores or organised crime battling over the drug market.

The violence has mainly hit disadvantaged neighbourhoods with large immigrant populations, but has increasingly spilled over into other areas.

In 2020, 47 people were killed in 366 shootings in the country of 10.3 million people, according to official statistics. There were also 107 bombings and 102 attempted detonations.

Crime and immigration are expected to be among Swedes’ main concerns in next year’s election.

Lund University political analyst Anders Sannerstedt predicted it would be a “close race”.

“Right now four parties to the right command 174 seats (in parliament), while the four parties to the left have 175 seats. Recent polls show roughly the same,” he said.

Sannerstedt said he expected “no major changes” in policies from a government headed by Andersson.

Article by AFP’s Pia Ohlin

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Politics in Sweden: Why Sweden’s finance minister is willing to be unpopular

She's been accused of being Sweden's 'most invisible modern finance minister'. But when she emerged from the shadows to present the budget last week, she showed she is also the minister most willing to take unpopular measures, writes The Local's Nordic editor Richard Orange.

Politics in Sweden: Why Sweden's finance minister is willing to be unpopular

The word that Elisabeth Svantesson repeated again and again, in every interview and in every speech around the budget was tuff, or “tough”, using it no fewer than 14 times in a 30-minute interview with Sweden’s public radio broadcaster on Saturday.  

“I know that it’s going to be tough,” she responded when asked why the government hadn’t given Sweden’s municipalities and the regions greater funding to help schools and regional health authorites deal with rising prices. “It’s going to tough for a lot of people next year.” 

But she was unapologetic. For her getting inflation under control was, she said, the “a och o” – the alpha and omega, or beginning and the end – of the budget. 

“If I’d done what some people are calling for and given even more money to the municipalities and the regions,” she argued, it would have meant “an even bigger budget”, which “would have fuelled inflation and then next year and the year after we would have had even bigger problems with increased costs”.

Sweden is facing, she has said again and again, an “economic winter”, and the only responsible way to respond is with a budget that is “restrained”.


For Svantesson, it is better to be criticised in the short term for a miserly budget than to go into the next election as the finance minister who let inflation take an unshakeable grip on the economy.

And if the mark of a good government budget is that it pleases no one but the officials in the finance department, then Svantesson has hit just the right balance. Her budget drew heavy criticism from both left and right, from both business lobby groups and the regional and municipal governments who run most of Sweden’s healthcare and education.  

For the Social Democrats, the decision to give an extra 10 billion kronor a year in direct funding to municipalities and the regions was “a betrayal of the welfare sector”. But for the Confederation of Swedish Enterprise, it was caving in to the unreasonable demands of regional governments and municipalities, wasting 40 percent of the extra funds available, which would have been better used to cut taxes. 

In her interview, Svantesson refused to be drawn on whether cuts would be needed to health and education, saying that this was up to the “smart people from different parties” in regional and municipal governments to decide. “They know best how to handle the situation and I don’t want to speak for them.”

Svantesson’s technocratic approach makes her a bit of an exception in Sweden’s current government.   

This is a government forced by its reliance on the far-right Sweden Democrats to drive a populist agenda: it is cutting fuel taxes and biofuels content when action is urgently needed to combat climate change; bringing in a raft of tough measures on crime that many criminologists say risk pushing up prison populations without solving gang crime; and taking measures to reduce immigration many see as illiberal. 

It sometimes feels as if figures like Justice Minister Gunnar Strömmer, Migration Minister Maria Malmer Stenergard, and Environment Minister Romina Pourmokhtari – none of them natural populists – do not themselves believe in many of the measures they are working to enact. 

Svantesson, on the other hand, is almost an unpopulist, going so far as to claim in her Saturday interview that she was more willing to take unpopular measures than her predecessors in the job.

“We are,” she boasted. “carrying out some of the tough reprioritisations that other governments have not dared to do”. 

The only nakedly populist tax decision she announced (possibly on the urging of the Sweden Democrats), was a small cut in the level of tax on snus, the tobacco pouches one in five Swedish men and quite a few women have permanently lodged under their upper lips.

“Snus is going to be a few kronor cheaper,” she said, rounding off the Saturday interview. “That’s something many people also think is good.” 

Politics in Sweden is a weekly column looking at the big talking points and issues in Swedish politics. Members of The Local Sweden can sign up to receive an email alert when the column is published. Just click on this “newsletters” option or visit the menu bar.