Sweden’s government on Saturday announced a deal with the opposition that will avert the country’s first snap elections in more than half a century and counter the rising influence of the anti-immigrant far right. The deal announced by Prime Minister Stefan Loefven, in office for less than three months, will see the minority center-left government remain in power. The far right has however threatened a no-confidence vote. Loefven had called early elections this month after the populist and anti-immigrant Sweden Democrats torpedoed his fledgling government’s budget. The crisis had dealt a severe blow to Sweden’s self-image as a tolerant nation and illustrated the rising political fortunes of anti-immigrant parties in much of Europe.
Articles about voting issues in the Kingdom of Sweden.
Swedish Prime Minister Stefan Lofven called the country’s first snap election in decades after a fringe populist party derailed his efforts to gather support for his first budget proposal. The decision, announced Wednesday, marks a rare moment of political drama in a country long known for the stability of its politics and the willingness of opposition lawmakers to work together to find solutions. The election, which is scheduled to be held March 22, would be Sweden’s first snap election since 1958. A decision the day before by the opposition, anti-immigration Sweden Democrats to back an alternative center-right budget plan effectively doomed the Social Democrat prime minister’s budget proposal, leaving him with a spending plan penned by political foes.
Sweden: Social Democrat Leader Stefan Lofven Defeats Incumbent Prime Minister Fredrik Reinfeldt | Wall Street Journal
Sweden’s Social Democrat Leader Stefan Lofven defeated incumbent Prime Minister Fredrik Reinfeldt in parliamentary elections on Sunday, signaling the return of a left-leaning government after eight years in opposition. The shift reflected concerns among the Swedish electorate that Mr. Reinfeldt’s pro-market policies have chipped away at the country’s cherished welfare state. Mr. Reinfeldt said he would resign as prime minister on Monday and as leader of his party by spring. Mr. Lofven, though, still faces tough negotiations with left-leaning allies over forming a coalition government after failing to secure an absolute majority. With nearly all votes counted, results from Sweden’s election authority showed the Social Democrats won 31.1% of the vote, largely unchanged from the last election in 2010, while Mr. Reinfeldt’s Moderate Party slumped to 23.2%, from 30.1% at the last election. Though the two parties won nearly the same amount of votes four years ago, Mr. Reinfeldt’s Moderates were then able to cobble together a larger center-right alliance of parties.
It might not appear the most obvious place to launch an election campaign. Most of those present are teenagers not old enough to vote, slouching on beanbags, texting or nodding their heads to the beat on their headphones. In a classroom plastered with posters of boybands, trainee hairdressers barely look up from their model wigs as Stefan Löfven, a Social Democrat who wants to be Sweden’s next prime minister, whizzes through the room. Yet in many ways Stockholm’s Grillska high school is the perfect launchpad for the centre-left party to orchestrate a political comeback after eight years out of government, the longest spell in its history. The school encapsulates Sweden’s much-admired public-private approach to solving the social-budgetary conundrums facing European economies – and its shortcomings. Formerly called John Bauergymnasiet, Grillska used to be one of Sweden’s publicly funded but privately run friskolor (free schools) until its owner, the Danish private equity company Axcel, filed for bankruptcy last April.
Sweden, seen for years as a beacon of stability and reforms in a crisis-ridden Europe, may be heading for political deadlock after Sunday’s general election, with polls suggesting that both right and left might be unable to form a stable government. Prime Minister Fredrik Reinfeldt’s center-right coalition is battling an opposition alliance led by the Social Democrats. But neither group looks set to win a majority – putting them at the mercy of more radical leftist or far-right parties. The Social Democrats, campaigning to spend more money on a welfare state that they founded in the last century, were the election favorites for months. But some polls suggest a once seemingly unassailable lead has narrowed, unsettling businesses and investors and even raising the prospect of a new vote. “It could be an Italian situation, something we’ve hardly ever experienced in Sweden,” said Magnus Henrekson, Director of the Research Institute of Industrial Economics. An increasingly likely scenario is that Social Democrat leader Stefan Lofven will head the biggest party but struggle to cobble together a majority. Even if he won the support of a former communist party, he could still be in a minority against the far right and Reinfeldt’s coalition.
Swedish voters are now less likely to oust the government of Prime Minister Fredrik Reinfeldt on Sept. 14 than they were just a week ago. The Social Democrat-led opposition’s lead has narrowed to 4.5 points in the latest poll by Sifo — the smallest difference since May last year — from 7.3 points a week earlier and 9.8 a month earlier. The shift toward the government follows presentations by the main parties revealing their policy goals for the next four years. “We’re talking about 135,000 voters for things to become completely even, and that’s of course not a huge number,” said Toivo Sjoeren, head of opinion research at TNS Sifo in Stockholm, by phone. He says history indicates that even after narrowing, the margin remains too wide for Reinfeldt to be re-elected. “On the other hand, you actually never know.”
While most Swedes wait until the elections are on the doorstep, the polls are now open for those who’ve made up their mind already. But early voting has become all the more popular in Sweden, reported the TT news agency. In the 2010 elections, 39.4 percent of voters cast their ballot early, compared to just 31.8 percent in 2006. This year, voting cards have been sent out to 7.6 million Swedes. There are around 3,000 spots around the country where they can cast their early votes, too.
There are elections in Sweden every four years. There are 349 seats up for grabs in the national parliament (Riksdag) and registered voters will also choose the next politicians to make up 21 county councils and 290 municipal assemblies. You have to be a Swedish citizen aged 18 or over to vote in national elections. But if you’re from the EU, Iceland or Norway and you’re registered as living in Sweden, then you can have a say in municipal and county council elections. People from outside Europe who have been in Sweden for more than three years may also be allowed to vote locally. In total around seven million people are eligible to go to the polls.
The favourites to win next month’s general election in Sweden are planning to reverse course on the current government’s economic reforms by limiting private equity involvement in the public sector, raising taxes and boosting spending. Sweden’s centre-right government, in power since 2006, has gained a reputation for tax cutting and increasing competition in the public sector, which has proved popular with business but voters appear ready for a change as polling data suggests they are more concerned about education, jobs, health, and elderly care. “The conflict is clearly what direction is Sweden going to take during the next 8-10 years?” Magdalena Andersson, a Social Democrat and likely finance minister in a centre-left government, told the Financial Times. “Our path is to increase taxes right now, so we can do some very necessary spending now, but also in the future we don’t see a need for further tax cuts, but rather for more investment in the public sector.” With five weeks to go until polling day the opposition parties of the left have a healthy lead over the ruling centre-right coalition.
Neighbouring Norway and Finland have already done digital voting test runs. Now some Swedish municipalities could follow the trend after a majority of members in the parliamentary election law committee voted in favour of a new proposal. “If it works well, it would be a natural step to introduce it in the 2022 elections,” Billy Gustafsson, Social Dem. … However, the proposal was not met with unanimous approval.