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POLITICS

Will Sweden’s right-bloc meet the deadline to strike a government deal?

Moderate leader Ulf Kristersson is due to submit his report to the Speaker on coalition talks at 11am on Wednesday and it looks like the parties are still divided. Will he need an extension and is a deal possible?

Will Sweden's right-bloc meet the deadline to strike a government deal?
A police car parked outside Tidö Slott near Västerås, where the leaders of the right-wing bloc were negotiating over the weekend. Photo: Fredrik Sandberg/TT

How well are the talks going? 

Kristersson has from the start underlined the constructive approach taken by all parties, and the four parties have for the most part managed to keep leaks, anonymous briefing, and public disputes under control with still very little known about the detail of the discussions. 

Nicholas Aylott, associate professor of politics at Stockholm’s Södertörn University, said that this suggested that the four parties were managing to negotiate calmly. 

“I think if the negotiations had really hit trouble, then we would probably have got some inkling of it,” he said. “It’s hard to imagine that they would have kept real problems quiet.” 

What’s the sticking point? 

The big difference in opinion seems to be between the far-right Sweden Democrats and the Liberals.

The Liberal Party’s parliamentary group leader Mats Persson broke silence on Tuesday to state publicly that his party still expected to have ministerial posts in the new government. 

A source in the Sweden Democrats last week told Sweden’s state broadcaster SR that the far-right party did not want the Liberals included in the new government. 

According to Dagens Nyheter, SD leader Jimmie Åkesson has been meeting Liberal leader Johan Pehrson in person to try to overcome the deadlock. 

“What probably remains uncertain is whether the Liberals will be in the government, and there I think it really could go either way,” Aylott said. 

“I think if I had to put money on only one outcome, it would be that the Liberals are out, but I can quite imagine a scenario in which they’re in, and the Sweden Democrats show what a mature and stable and trustworthy party they are by accepting it. It’s not inconceivable.” 

So will there be a deal by Wednesday? 

With a month now gone since the election, Kristersson’s government-building talks are already the second-longest since Sweden brought in universal suffrage in 1921. His rhetoric during the election campaign, that the parties in Prime Minister Magdalena Andersson’s left-wing bloc were divided while his right-wing bloc were united, already looks tarnished. 

But it looks far from clear that he will be able to visit Andreas Norlén, the Speaker, with a deal in hand. 

Persson on Tuesday said his party was willing to extend talks past the deadline of this Wednesday if it is necessary for it to achieve this goal.

“We’re in no hurry. The most important thing is that this will be good for Sweden,” he said.

Aylott argues that while it might be embarrassing for Kristersson to ask Norlén for an extension on Wednesday, he did not think it was impossible. 

“I’m cautious about that because it may require a little bit more time, and I don’t get the impression that they they feel overly stressed to meet that deadline,” he said. “If it requires another another few days or a week, then it’s something that I think everybody can live with. They could well be done in time. But if they’re not, it’s perhaps not such a sensation.”

 
Are the Liberals in a position to make demands?
While the Liberals are the smallest party in the new parliament with only 16 seats, Aylott argues that they are “not entirely without leverage”, given that they hold enough seats to grant or deny Kristersson’s government a majority. 

“What they could do is threaten to cause trouble from outside the government and do deals with other constellations of parties on particular issues in a sort of imprecise, unspecified way,” he said. “That is something that gives them a little bit of bargaining strength.” 

More crucially, without the Liberals’ support, Kristersson cannot pass a vote as prime minister. 

Aylott, however, said he thought it was highly unlikely that the Liberals would be willing to switch sides at the last moment and instead reinstate outgoing Social Democrat Prime Minister Magdalena Andersson. 

“If they hadn’t already changed their minds twice over the last few years, then that threat might be a bit more credible,” he said, “but to swing back leftwards, again, after all the agonies that the party has been through, and particularly after the most recent switchback, which may well have saved the party’s parliamentary seats, I think is not really very credible.” 

So how much do the Liberals want that ministerial seat? 

That’s the question that really gets to the heart of it,” Aylott said. “I can see two ways of reasoning. One way is for the party to think, ‘well, maybe it’s not so important for us, because we can exercise influence without shouldering the burdens and the responsibilities of office. And in some ways, that might be quite an advantageous position.”

“But what the Liberals really need above all else is visibility. They need to consolidate their electoral support. They just don’t have enough votes to be confident of staying at the centre of Swedish politics.”

“And a prerequisite for doing that really, is to become visible, to have people who get the media’s attention in the coverage of everyday politics. And if you’re in the government, of course, that makes it considerably easier.” 

In addition, throughout the election campaign, Johan Pehrson positioned himself as Sweden’s next education minister, meaning he may be loath to see someone else in the role. 

“He would certainly like that position, because education has been such a strong issue for the Liberals. Under [former leader Jan] Björklund it was really the education party, so to try to reclaim that policy area for the Liberals, I think, has has obvious attractions. So that might just persuade Pehrson to play a little bit harder.” 

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CLIMATE CRISIS

Why did Sweden’s emissions drop in 2023 – and what’s in store for the future?

Sweden's greenhouse gas emissions fell by two percent last year, but the good news may be short-lived.

Why did Sweden's emissions drop in 2023 – and what's in store for the future?

In 2023, the Scandinavian country’s emissions amounted to 44.2 million tonnes of CO2 equivalent, a drop of about one tonne from 2022, according to preliminary statistics, the Swedish Environmental Protection Agency said in a statement.

The two percent decrease was in line with a 1.6 percent drop announced by Statistics Sweden in late May.

The EPA said the 2023 figure represented a decrease of 38 percent from 1990.

The EPA attributed the year-on-year drop primarily to lower emissions from industry – in particular the cement, iron and steel industries, due to lower production as a result of Sweden’s economic recession – and the electric and district heating sector, due to lower electricity prices.

“Emissions have continued to decrease, not least in industry and electric and district heating, which form part of the EU’s emissions trading system,” Anna-Karin Nyström, the head of the EPA’s climate target division said.

“The pace has slowed compared to the year before, when above all domestic transport and (fuel-based) work machinery contributed to a sharp reduction.”

But in March, an independent panel of experts tasked with reviewing climate policy said the government’s plans would lead to short-term emissions increases in 2024 and knock it off-course from its 2030 reduction target.

The Swedish Climate Policy Council, said in the March report that “policy adopted in 2023 will increase emissions and does not lead towards the fulfilment of Sweden’s climate goals and EU commitments by 2030”.

The council said several measures, such as a reduced fuel tax, put climate ambitions at risk.

But it also lamented a lack of concrete measures in the government’s “climate policy action plan”, a roadmap that the government is required by law to present every four years.

Sweden’s Minister for Climate and the Environment Romina Pourmokhtari said she was “not particularly worried” about the review’s assessments.

“They are based on the government’s policy announcements during 2023, and there are several measures that have been added since then,” Pourmokhtari said.

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