Magdalena Andersson’s reign as Sweden’s first female prime minister lasted just seven hours as the Scandinavian country plunged into political chaos on an extraordinary day of drama in Stockholm.
Mr Andersson resigned as prime minister on Wednesday, only hours after gaining sufficient backing from parliament to take the role, when her new partners from the Green Party quit the coalition and collapsed her centre-left government.
The Greens left in protest after parliament refused to back the government’s spending plans and instead adopted a budget drafted by the opposition, nationalist Sweden Democrats and two mainstream centre-right parties.
Handing in her resignation just hours after saying how “moved” she was to become leader and inspire girls across Sweden, Ms Andersson said: “This maybe is not the best image of Swedish politics.”
In a day of high political drama, Ms Andersson first became Sweden’s new leader despite losing the vote, as a majority could not be mustered to stop her taking office by one vote.
Then her own budget, drafted when she was finance minister, was rejected by parliament, meaning she would have to govern with opposition spending plans until national elections next September – although a revised budget could be presented in the spring.
That led the Greens to resign from the government due to the opposition budget reversing several environmental measures. They said they would back Mr Andersson as prime minister in the new vote, but it is unclear how other parties would react.
Mr Andersson said she would try to govern with a one-party minority government of her Social Democrat party, noting that earlier in the day she had sufficient support to become prime minister.
Sweden, long a bastion of political stability where the Social Democrats have come first in every election in more than a century, is facing an extended period of political turmoil as a result of the rapid rise of the anti-immigration Sweden Democrats.
The nationalist party, which first entered parliament in 2010, has broken up the traditional system of left-wing and right-wing blocs, and new uneasy constellations are only starting to be formed.
Stefan Lofven, Ms Andersson’s predecessor as both prime minister and Social Democrat leader, was forced to resign in June after becoming the first Swedish head of government to lose a no-confidence vote. In July, he won enough support in parliament to resume the job, only to announce his resignation a month later.
With their joint budget proposal and an earlier common immigration policy, the Sweden Democrats, Moderate party and Christian Democrats have been paving the way for a potential new conservative bloc ahead of next year’s elections.
The right-wing parties have won voter support for their focus on crime and immigration, increasingly important issues in a country that has faced almost daily incidents of shootings as well as bombings or grenade attacks in suburbs with large numbers of foreign-born residents.
Ms Andersson now faces the challenge of uniting the disparate parties – ranging from the ex-communists of the Left party to the nominally centre-right Centre party – which backed her in a new vote. The speaker of parliament said he accepted Ms Andersson’s resignation, and would reveal his plans on Thursday afternoon.
Sweden, which prides itself as a country that takes gender equality seriously and has a government that professes to run a feminist foreign policy, was the last of the Nordic countries to gain a female prime minister, 40 years after Norway became the first. – Copyright The Financial Times Limited 2021