Sweden’s Social Democrat leader Magdalena Andersson was elected prime minister by parliament on Wednesday 24 November, becoming the first woman to lead the Nordic kingdom after days of difficult negotiations.
Until then finance minister in the government of Stefan Löfven, resigned prime minister, this 54-year-old economist had secured Tuesday evening, in extremis, the support necessary to come to power, thanks to a last-minute agreement with the party of the Left to increase small pensions. Visibly moved, she got up to the applause of her camp to be handed her charge by the president of the Riksdag.
Bad surprise, however, for the new leader: she lost the support of a key centrist party for her budget. She therefore risks having to govern with the budget prepared by the right-wing opposition with the unprecedented support of the far-right Sweden Democrats party, following a vote scheduled for the afternoon. “I think I can rule the country nonetheless”, she said at a press conference, repeating her slogan “I believe that Sweden can do better”.
Worn out by seven years in power and by a political crisis at the beginning of the summer, Stefan Löfven had announced in August that he would resign in November. Former high-level swimmer, known for her straightforward style which has earned her the nickname the « bulldozer », Magdalena Andersson had already succeeded him at the head of the Social Democratic Party in early November.
Objective: the legislative elections of 2022
The handover for the post of prime minister proved complicated, however, with the tiniest of margins. The tight political balances in the Swedish parliament, which resulted in a four-month delay in forming a government after the last elections in 2018, complicated the situation. Magdalena Andersson was elected thanks to a vote of deputies with 117 votes in favor, 57 abstentions, 174 against and one absence. In Sweden, a government is ” pass “ as long as an absolute majority of 175 deputies out of 349 does not vote its censure.
Despite being an open champion of gender equality, Sweden has so far never had a female prime minister, unlike all the other Nordic countries. A century after the suffrage of women in Sweden, Magdalena Andersson succeeds 33 men who have held the position since its creation in 1876.
Once his appointment to Rosenbad, the seat of the Prime Minister has been acquired, his great challenge is known: to keep the Social Democrats in power in the legislative elections of September 2022. Around 25% in the polls, the party keeps its rank of leading political formation of Sweden, but is close to its historic lows.
Three main priorities
He will have to counter his great rival, the conservative Moderates party, led by Ulf Kristersson. The latter has joined forces with the far-right anti-immigration Swedish Democrats (SD) party, evidenced by their alliance on the budget, and is now ready to govern with his support in Parliament. This end of the cordon sanitaire and the games of alliances between large and small parties make the ballot even more unpredictable, analysts say. Ulf Kristersson laughed at Wednesday morning “A desperate government”, in an interview with the Swedish news agency TT.
To relaunch her camp, Magdalena Andersson has set three main priorities: “Take back democratic control” on schools, the health system and retirement homes after a wave of privatizations; to establish Sweden as a climate champion; and fight segregation and brutal gang warfare that the country fails to stop.
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Magdalena Andersson, first woman to become Prime Minister of Sweden