Swedish PM resigns, paving the way for potential female leader

Stefan Lofven resigns in long-planned move with Magdalena Andersson on track to become country’s first female PM.

Swedish Prime Minister Stefan Lofven hands in his resignation to the speaker of parliament Andreas Norlen at the Swedish Parliament Riksdagen in Stockholm, Sweden [Anders Wiklund /TT News Agency via Reuters]

Swedish Prime Minister Stefan Lofven resigned on Wednesday, paving the way for the country, a gender-equality champion, to finally have a female prime minister.

Magdalena Andersson, the current finance minister, was elected to replace Lofven as the head of the Social Democratic Party last week, putting her on track to becoming premier if she wins a vote in parliament expected next week.

Lofven, a former welder and union negotiator, has headed a minority coalition with the Greens since 2014 and said earlier this year that he would step down ahead of the next general election, due in September 2022.

“We have an election in scarcely a year and it is important that we have a quick handover,” Lofven, who had said in August he would resign this month, told reporters. “I think voters want this to go smoothly.”

Installing the first woman as prime minister sounds almost anachronistic in a country that has long championed gender equality.

All other Nordic countries – Norway, Denmark, Finland and Iceland – have seen women lead their governments.

The change in the Social Democrats’ leadership comes as the party hovers close to its lowest-ever approval ratings.

It remains unclear if Andersson has enough support to pass a confirmation vote in parliament, which could happen next week.

She does not need a majority in the 349-seat parliament to back her as prime minister. But she must avoid a majority voting against her.

On Wednesday, the Centre Party agreed not to block Andersson’s candidacy in return for easier building regulations and changes to forestry ownership laws.

But Andersson will still need at least passive support from the formerly communist Left Party, whose leader, Nooshi Dadgostar, has demanded a say on policy.

If Andersson promises that, she risks losing the backing of the Centre Party, which has centre-right roots and wants to exclude the Left from any influence over government.

If parliament rejects Andersson, Moderate Party leader Ulf Kristersson will probably be given a try. He is backed by the populist, anti-immigration Sweden Democrats, a party that both the Centre and Left want to keep from influencing policy.

“The Left Party has to realise that there is going to be a new government and the question is which one do they want?” Lofven said.

Source: News Agencies