Sweden’s Stefan Lofven returns as PM a week after resigning from role

Social Democrat had stepped down from position following no-confidence motion

Social Democrat leader Stefan Lofven is seen after being voted in as prime minister in the Swedish parliament in Stockholm. Photograph: Christine Olsson/TT News Agency via AP

Social Democrat leader Stefan Lofven is seen after being voted in as prime minister in the Swedish parliament in Stockholm. Photograph: Christine Olsson/TT News Agency via AP

 

Stefan Lofven has made his second comeback as Swedish prime minister, narrowly securing parliamentary backing to return to the role on Wednesday a week after he resigned from the position following a successful no-confidence motion in him.

The Social Democrat will be officially reinstated on Friday, after a housing row prompted a parliamentary revolt that made him the first sitting Swedish prime minister to be ejected from office.

Wednesday’s vote was a victory for the 63-year-old, but demonstrated the narrowness of the corridor of political support that lies ahead for his revived Social Democrat-Green minority government.

Some 116 Swedish MPs backed his candidacy for the prime minister role and 173 opposed, but 58 MPs, including representatives from the Centre Party, abstained in Wednesday’s parliamentary vote. Swedish law says a proposed prime minister is deemed elected unless a majority of members – in this case 175 – vote against.

“Parliament has put its trust in me to continue leading in Sweden. I take on this task with determination and respect,” said Mr Lofven, who has been prime minister since 2014.

Heated row

His comeback has robbed the far-right Sweden Democrats (SD) of a political coup. Two weeks ago, amid a heated row between Mr Lofven and the Left Party over rent controls, SD politicians spotted a political opportunity. After the Left threatened to table a no-confidence motion in the prime minister, SD officials did just that. Non-government parties, many of whom have unofficial support arrangements with the minority administration, joined the revolt.

Mr Lofven opted to resign, saying an unnecessary election a year early was irresponsible given the ongoing Covid-19 pandemic.

After intense talks, opposition parties realised their options were limited. Ulf Kristersson, head of the main opposition Moderates, abandoned his own hopes of being Sweden’s next prime minister when the Left Party signalled it preferred a revived centre-left government.

Mr Kristersson warned that Sweden’s minority coalition was returning to power with ever-decreasing support and cohesion on public finances. “We are getting a historically weak government which has so little agreement on policy . . . that they cannot even put forward a joint budget,” he said.

With just more than a year to the next scheduled general election, Mr Lofven is not expected to reshuffle his cabinet and is instead likely to focus on securing parliamentary approval for this year’s budget in the autumn.

“I am the first one to admit this won’t be easy,” he said. “We all have to contribute. No one can get everything, but everyone can get something.”