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POLITICS

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

Koran burnings by Danish far-Right extremist no longer causing riots, Swedish police say

Swedish police said there have been no disturbances associated with the Koran burning by Danish far-Right extremist Rasmus Paludan and his party Stram Kurs ("Hard Line") this week around Stockholm, unlike the riots seen over Easter.

Koran burnings by Danish far-Right extremist no longer causing riots, Swedish police say

Paludan and his party have been holding demonstrations this week involving burning the Koran, in what Paludan describes as an “election tour” ahead of standing in Sweden’s parliamentary election in September.

However Swedish newswire TT has reported that few people have seemed to care about the shock tactics used and police have confirmed that no major disturbances have occurred as a result of the demonstrations.

This is in stark contrast to the demonstrations over Easter, which resulted in riots involving vandalism and violence aimed primarily at police. A total of 26 police officers were injured and at least 40 people were arrested.

“The police did not anticipate the extent of the protests and the enormous violence that the Easter riots brought with them. I don’t know if we have seen anything similar in Sweden in modern times,” Sten Widmalm, political scientist at Uppsala University, told newswire TT.

Widmalm says there are now fewer people turning up at Paludan’s demonstrations because of the number of people charged over the Easter riots. He also noted the increased police presence and adapted resources by the police, which has stopped anyone getting close to using violence.

Everyone that TT newswire spoke to a demonstration in Fittja torg, said they knew Paludan’s aim was to provoke people.

“I am a Muslim myself and I don’t care. For a true Muslim, all religions are equal. His message is to create conflict and irritation. You shouldn’t give him that,” Himmet Kaya told TT. 

According to Widmalm, there is nothing to indicate that Paludan will be successful at the Swedish election.

“On the other hand, I think that Stram Kurs has influenced Swedish politics very much in such a way that it has exposed large gaps in society. I think awareness of these has increased, due to the Easter riots – although it’s nothing to thank Paludan for.”

In Sweden, you must be a Swedish citizen in order to be elected to parliament. Paludan’s father is Swedish, and he applied for and was granted Swedish citizenship in 2020.

In order to enter the Swedish parliament, Paludan must win at least four percent of the vote in the upcoming election.

In 2019, Paludan stood in Danish parliamentary elections, achieving only 1.8 percent of the vote. Under Denmark’s proportional representation system, parties must achieve at least two percent of the vote in order to enter the Danish parliament.

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