Home Agenda Andersson’s Diary – Lisa Pelling

Andersson’s Diary – Lisa Pelling

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Magdalena Andersson was elected the first female Prime Minister of Sweden. Again.

Baton past РMagdalena Andersson replaced Stefan L̦fven as leader of the Social Democrats and then, ultimately, as Prime Minister (Jeppe Gustafsson / shutterstock.com)

Who governs Sweden? The question that has puzzled Swedes and foreign observers alike in recent days has now been settled: Magdalena Andersson is Prime Minister.

Confusingly enough, she was already elected last week, but had to to resign just hours after applause rang out in the Riksdag, after the Green Party decided to quit government when the Red-Green coalition failed to win budget support in the House.

The Swedish constitution does not require the prime minister to be positively approved by a majority in parliament. Instead, he – now she – has only to get MPs’ tolerance, and the opposition was one of the 175 needed, out of the 349 seats in parliament, to deny it.

At 10 a.m. on November 24, 100 years after the establishment of universal male and female suffrage, the glass ceiling finally broke—Also in Sweden, young girls can now imagine as prime minister. Four out of five Nordic countries now have a woman prime minister: Sanna Marin in Finland, Mette Frederiksen in Denmark, Katrín Jakobsdóttir in Iceland… and Magdalena Andersson in Sweden.

Budget vote

Andersson was visibly moved when the vote took place, but she had little time to celebrate. If tolerance is enough to become head of government, the procedure for voting the state budget is different. Here, the parliamentary rule is that the best supported budget proposal is adopted.

Even before Andersson was officially installed as prime minister, in the budget vote later today, the Center Party would only support its own proposal, retaining 31 decisive votes for the passage of the red budget – green. This follows tough negotiations with the Left Party (27 seats) to gain its support.

Most of the votes were thus attributed to the proposal put forward by three right-wing parties. The moderate conservatives (70 seats), Christian Democrats (22 seats) and right-wing Swedish Democratic nationalists (62 seats) – in a more infamous historic first – had agreed on a budget. The sanitary cordon that previously limited the political power of the Swedish Democrats is now definitely broken.

Shortly after the election of Ulf Kristersson as the head of the moderates (member of the European People’s Party) in 2018, he had promised not to cooperate, speak, collaborate or rule with the Swedish Democrats (‘inte samarbeta, samtala, samverka, samregera‘in Swedish). He still insists that the Swedish Democrats will not be offered ministerial posts if the conservative parties win the next general election, but his credibility is now close to zero.

We will not administer a budget that was negotiated with the Swedish Democrats, said the Green Party, exiting the coalition government with the Social Democrats. This left Andersson with no choice but to resign.


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The speaker of parliament, however, also found himself without options: knowing that only Andersson would be tolerated by parliament, he scheduled a second vote for the prime minister on Monday. And, for the second time, Andersson was elected.

Three priorities

Then, it announced its three priorities: fight against segregation and violent crime, create green jobs by accelerating the climate transition and regain control of well-being. It is certainly an ambitious program.

The two governments of Stefan Löfven (2014-18 and following) had also prioritized the fight against crime, who passed “The largest package ever to tackle gang crime”, initiating a “historic expansion” of the Swedish police authority (which will increase to 10,000 employees by 2024) and introducing new, tougher penalties . But while the Swedes are not more often the victims of crime today than in previous decades, organized crime has grown and become much more deadly, with daily shootings and explosions terrorizing neighborhoods.

At his first press conference, Andersson announced new legislation to make it easier for police to access digital evidence on cell phones and computer disks. To be hard on the cause crime too – to borrow a phrase from former British Labor leader Tony Blair – Andersson must not only fight segregation but also change Sweden’s outdated drug policies.

The creation of green jobs is well underway in Sweden, the north of the country feverishly embarking on a wave of “neo-industrialization”. This is led by HYBRITE, a consortium of Vattenfall and two other state-owned companies that will soon start producing fossil-free steel, and Northvolt, a collaboration between Volkswagen, the BMW Group, Scania and others to produce “green batteries for a blue planet”. But Andersson’s Social Democratic government will have to govern with a right-wing budget, which will cut not only funds for protecting endangered forests, but also taxes on fossil fuels.

“Competition” and “choice”

The most difficult task for Andersson will undoubtedly be to regain control of Sweden’s heavily privatized welfare system. Once the country with the largest public sector in the west, Sweden today excels in neoliberalism, having introduced market mechanisms in all areas.

Over the past 20 years, 100,000 municipal apartments have been sold, while social assistance for adults is privatized to a large extent. The same is true for primary care – indeed, Sweden is an incubator for ‘net doctors’ who make a profit by providing digital care to largely healthy people and billing their’. medical examinations ”to the taxpayer, draining system resources.

Blind faith in “competition” and “freedom of choice” as the sole drivers of efficiency and quality has also plagued education. Swedish schools suffer from a dysfunctional voucher system, in which private companies have been allowed to compete for students with Ipads and grade inflation, turning teachers into service staff, according to the coordinator of the Program for International Student Assessment (PISA).

Instead of knowing, Swedish schools now produce consumer satisfaction, argues Karin Pettersson, cultural editor of Aftonbladet. Instead of social cohesion, the system increases socio-economic and ethnic segregation. It’s so profitable that it has become big business for a number of private equity firms.

There is an urgent need to regain control, indeed.

“Neoliberalism is dead”

We are at the start of the “second twenties” of Social Democracy, exclaimed Andersson when she delivered her inaugural address as leader of the Social Democratic Party, following Löfven’s departure, to its congress a few weeks ago. In the aftermath of universal suffrage, the 1920s saw the emergence of his ideal of well-being, determining the “home of the people”.

Neoliberalism is dead, she announced, and it is sweet music for many social democrats. But the party’s relationship with neoliberalism is problematic. Not so long ago, economic historian Elisabeth Lindberg Noted, “part of the party praised the privatization of schools, budgetary discipline and competition.”

Andersson’s schedule is full. So it’s still his cv: a diploma from the prestigious Stockholm School of Economics, doctoral studies at Harvard and the Vienna Institute for Advanced Studies, decades as an impeccable public servant and politician at the highest levels of power, including seven years as finance minister.

And now: the first female Prime Minister of Sweden. Twice.


Magdalena Andersson, first female Prime Minister

Lisa Pelling is a political scientist and research manager at the Stockholm-based think tank Ideal Arena. She regularly contributes to the digital daily Dagens Arena and trained as a policy advisor and speechwriter at the Swedish Ministry of Foreign Affairs.