One of Europe’s most stable left-wing governments, Sweden, has taken a blow following the national elections on the 9th of September, resulting in a hung parliament between the Social Democratic Party (SDP), and the centre-right ‘Alliance’ bloc. The result led to a confidence vote regarding the current Prime Minister’s position within the Swedish Riksdag. Stefan Löfven ultimately lost at 204 to 142 votes, failing to secure a majority support base within his own government.
The election outcome comes as a shock to the 44-year-long Social Democrat dominance within the Riksdag, as their 28 per cent result is the lowest total they have received in the past 100 years. Along with their allies, consisting of the Green Party and the Left Party, they are now fully exposed to a possible complete overturn by their rivals.
The election outcome comes as a shock to the 44-year-long Social Democrat dominance within the Riksdag
Löfven, who has been in office since 2014, will now be taking on a simple caretaker role within the Riksdag until a new Prime Minister is elected. Ulf Kristersson, the leader of the Moderates and current head of the ‘Alliance’ bloc seems to be the most likely candidate for the position as of now.
The newly elected Prime Minister would have to quickly confront the growing unease within the Riksdag, stemming from political polarisation within the various blocs, uphold the welfare system brought in and upheld by the Social Democrats, and provide a sense of security to the Swedish people, who find themselves in an anxious frenzy in a time of prevailing political and economic uncertainty.
opponents have been critical of Löfven’s handling of the intake of over 160,000 refugees in 2015
Löfven has been facing the looming pressure of the Alliance, due to the volatile nature of his immigration policies and failure to address the weight they have pressed upon public services. Opponents have been critical of Löfven’s handling of the intake of over 160,000 refugees in 2015 and stress the need to rebalance the funds for Sweden’s welfare system, which has faced several cuts in the past few years. Moreover, many younger voters have become disillusioned with the Social Democrats, who are failing to adapt to the changing technology and service-based economy of Sweden.
Moreover, many younger voters have become disillusioned with the Social Democrats
Ulf Kristersson has accused Löfven of prioritising the needs of asylum-seekers over those of Swede nationals, emphasising the need for broad political support to carry through reforms necessary for the return of Sweden’s stability. Such reforms, if presented by the Alliance, would call on the growing crisis of integration and a reconstruction of the country’s welfare system. A combination of reforms of this nature could, in Kristersson’s view, help develop a broad support base, opening the doors for a centre-right future for Sweden. Of course, Kristersson may easily find it difficult to further propagate his attempts at reform, especially on the occasion that he finds himself at odds with the left-leaning three-party bloc headed by the Social Democrats. Should he refuse to become open-minded about the possibility of cooperating with his political rivals, a majority coalition may become a mere fantasy for Sweden.
Although currently minimal, the chance of an SDP and Alliance coalition may still be in the cards, should the two rivalling blocs unite over their distrust of the increasingly popular Sweden Democrats. However, such a coalition would undermine the promise of the Alliance, whose formation was mostly fuelled by the desire for a unified alternative against the SDP.
Furthermore, despite the Alliance bloc currently holding a strong stance against a coalition with the far-right Sweden Democrats, the influence of their votes was notable in the success in their victory against the long-standing SDP stronghold. With their reluctance to cooperate with the SPD party due to their more radical views and ties to white supremacist movements, Ulf Kristersson and his allies may find themselves to be left on the side-lines of mainstream politics. However, Sweden is the latest EU country to board the populist train and may find itself following the tracks of countries such as Austria or the Czech Republic, where the roots of populism and demagoguery have surpassed the strong foundations of their own political ‘dinosaurs.’
Sweden is the latest EU country to board the populist train and may find itself following the tracks of countries such as Austria or the Czech Republic
The predominantly anti-Muslim party, led by Jimmie Åkesson, blames the massive intake of refugees by the Swedish Government under Löfven for the decline within the Swedish welfare system and the increase in concentration of crime throughout the country. Åkesson has pushed through the Sweden Democrat campaign by travelling the country and speaking at various rallies, gathering support across a primarily working-class platform, which includes a noticeable presence from younger generations. The party’s campaign programme, along with its criticisms of the Social Democrats has provided them with a boost to 17.6 per cent of the total vote, compared to their 2014 result of 12.86 per cent.
With Sweden’s stability caving, it is hard to tell what to expect from the Social Democrats and the Alliance bloc in the near future. They ultimately find themselves at a crossroads regarding their hunt for a Riksdag majority, for most possibilities undermine election promises made by the parties, whether it be cooperation between the Social Democrats and the Alliance, or the Sweden Democrats joining the Alliance. The current hung parliament and seat distribution presents a delicate situation to the future Prime Minister, who may find themselves having to tread carefully through the polarised Riksdag waters.