After Months Of Struggle, Sweden Forms A New Government

Jan 18, 2019
Originally published on January 18, 2019 8:50 am
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DAVID GREENE, HOST:

All right. If British politics have been a mess this week, Sweden has been without a government since September after an election delivered no clear winner. But this morning, the Swedish Parliament voted to give the previous prime minister, center-left Social Democrat Stefan Lofven, another four years in power. Maddy Savage has been following the story from outside the Swedish Parliament.

MADDY SAVAGE, BYLINE: Sweden has been in limbo for four months after one of the tightest elections in history ended without a clear winner, partly due to the rise of a nationalist anti-immigration party, the Sweden Democrats. They took votes away from traditional parties on the center-right as well as the Social Democrats, who are on the center-left and have a very different agenda, despite their similar name. So it's been a complicated process as the different parties have tried to figure out who should lead a coalition government. Today, Stefan Lofven finally got enough support to do it. Here's the speaker of the Swedish Parliament, Andreas Norlen, announcing Lofven had won the vote.

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ANDREAS NORLEN: Stefan Lofven (foreign language spoken).

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SAVAGE: What is important about this vote is that a number of smaller center-right parties essentially switched sides in order to help Stefan Lofven back into power. They said they'd tolerate a center-left coalition rather than risk a center-right government that would've relied on support from the hard-right nationalists. The prime minister has had to compromise, too. He said he'll cut taxes and relax the country's strict labor laws, moving away from his typical Social Democrat agenda, which many think is controversial. Here's Samuel Engblom, spokesperson for one of Sweden's largest trade union organizations, the TCO.

SAMUEL ENGBLOM: Well, it's a good thing that we have a government. It's taking a longer time than usual in Sweden, a longer time than usual in most countries. We're worried that it will become more easy for employers to fire people for the wrong reasons, to circumvent dismissive protection legislation.

SAVAGE: Opinion polls suggest that all of this has rocked confidence in politicians in general, and many people think the fragile new government is in for a rocky ride, which might end up helping the nationalists win even more support in the long run. For NPR News, this is Maddy Savage in Stockholm. Transcript provided by NPR, Copyright NPR.