Swedish Prime Minister Stefan Lofven has lost a no-confidence vote, giving the Social Democrat leader a week to resign and hand the speaker the job of finding a new government or call a snap election.
The nationalist Sweden Democrats had seized the chance to call Monday’s vote in Parliament after the Left Party withdrew support for the centre-left government over a plan to ease rent controls for new-build apartments.
Sweden is in the midst of a housing crisis and real estate prices are skyrocketing in the country.
Lofven, 63, has served as premier since 2014 and is the first Swedish prime minister to lose a no-confidence motion.
Sweden Democrat leader Jimmie Akesson told Parliament the government was harmful and historically weak, adding: “It should never have come into power.”
The motion, which required 175 votes in the 349-seat parliament to pass, was supported by 181 legislators.
Left Party levels blame at Lofven
Lofven’s shaky minority coalition with the Green Party has relied on support from two small centre-right parties and the Left Party since a tight election in 2018.
The Left Party blamed Lofven for the crisis.
“It is not the Left Party that has given up on the Social Democrat government, it is the Social Democrat government that has given up on the Left Party and the Swedish people,” Left Party leader Nooshi Dadgostar said.
With Parliament deadlocked, it is not clear to whom the speaker might turn to form a new government if Lofven resigns.
Opinion polls suggest the centre-left and centre-right blocs are evenly balanced, so a snap election might not bring clarity either.
Dadgostar said while her party had voted against Lofven, it would never help “a right-wing nationalist government” take power.
A new government or a caretaker administration would sit only until a parliamentary election, scheduled for September next year.
Housing market issues
At the centre of the controversy are plans to deregulate Sweden’s housing market because prices accelerated in the pandemic.
Sweden has strict regulations on rents aimed at maintaining affordable prices in larger cities. However, this disincentivises property developers from building new homes for the rental market.
People can find themselves waiting for years for a rental contract, while buying property is increasingly hard as prices jump.
The Left Party fears that deregulating the rental market will lead to rapid price increases and deeper segregation between rich and poor.
Over the weekend, Lofven held last-minute meetings seeking to secure a parliamentary majority for his proposed rent reforms.
On Sunday, he looked to soften the reforms by inviting landlords and tenant organisations for talks.
However, Dadgostar stood by the Left Party’s decision to oppose Lofven and said his effort was “a political show.”
“We have done something that is perceived as unusual in politics … kept our word,” she said.