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Thread: Sweden has a new government

  1. #1

    Default Sweden has a new government

    After over four months of wrangling, Sweden's interim govt. will turn into a proper govt. Stefan Löfven, leader of the Social Democrats (S), continues as PM, probably with a cabinet composed of S and Green Party (MP) MPs.

    I've lived in Sweden for 26 years, and this may be the most interesting election I've seen here in all that time. There was a remarkable amount of global attention due to the expected triumph of the far right Sweden Democrats (SD) and the far-FAR right Alternative for Sweden (AfS) fitting neatly into the prevailing narrative of the slow demise of the liberal world order. When the dust cleared, many commentators had egg on their faces (myself included):

    - SD made substantial gains with around 4.7% more of the vote share compared to the previous election, and 13 seats, but underperformed in comparison to expectations, while AfD was exposed as a ludicrous non-entity with 0.3% of the vote.

    - The Moderates (M) lost around 3.5% of the vote share and 14 seats (grossly underperforming).

    - S lost 2.75% and 13 seats, landing the party with an historically weak mandate, but not as weak as expected.

    - The Green Party, the junior member of the previous minority govt., lost around 2.5% (ending up just 0.5% over the threshold) and 9 seats.

    - The Center Party (C) had a very successful election, gaining by around 2.5% and 9 seats.

    - The conservative Christian Democrats (KD) gained 1.75% and 6 seats, which should be regarded as a spectacular performance given many expected them to fall below the threshold.

    - The Left (V) gained 2.29% and 7 seats.

    - The Liberals (L) gained a whopping 0.07% but that earned them an extra seat.

    Now, for just over a decade, Swedish politics has been divided into two political blocs: the center-right-conservative Alliance... and everyone else. As a result, in some contexts, analyzing Swedish politics through a two-party-lens has been very appealing. Under former M leader Reinfeldt, the Alliance was an effective coalition that managed to work in concert to win two elections despite implementing a number of very unpopular reforms. With their defeat in 2014, Reinfeldt made a hasty exit (seeing that the shit was about to hit the fan), and the Alliance has since been in a state of crisis.

    At the core of this crisis was the question of SD's growing electoral clout, representing an emerging populist socially conservative political bloc. Like conservatives elsewhere in the west, M & KD feared losing voters and influence to SD, and there was (and still is) a great deal of pressure within those parties to not only embrace (both covertly and overtly) elements of SD's rhetoric and policies, but also to start collaborating with SD on policy matters. For KD, this was a life-and-death issue--there appeared to be a real chance they'd fall below the threshold in the 2018 election due to losing conservative Evangelical voters to SD. For M, welcoming SD represented an obvious way to regain and retain an almost unassailable right-wing majority for the foreseeable future, with M as the uncontested leader of the coalition.

    To the surprise and consternation of many within M, things got complicated. It turns out that not all M members were on-board with this cynical means-ends approach to politics, and many had misgivings both on principled grounds as well as b/c of the lessons from other western countries where the center-right had tried to woo the far right. Attempts were made to assuage these fears, eg. through assurances that the Alliance would not directly collaborate with SD, but would not attempt to exclude SD from influence either--in effect making the Alliance reliant on SD's passive support on policy issues. The internal conflict became even more significant when the centrist and liberal members of the Alliance made it extremely clear that they would not countenance a rapprochement with SD. Anna Kinberg Batra, Reinfeldt's successor, tried to shift M in all directions at once in order to make everyone happy; unsurprisingly, she was punished by all factions, leading to her ouster--and the ascension of Ulf Kristersson to the position of party leader and Big Daddy of the Alliance.

    The problem was, M's leadership of the Alliance--let alone Kristersson's--was no longer a given. During the protracted identity crisis, Annie Lööf, C's leader, had emerged as an increasingly admired and respected representative of the center-right, and she staked all her political capital on the promise that C would never support a govt. that was reliant on SD's support. Over the course of the campaign period leading up to the election, she kept making a strong case for a principled center-right resistance in the face of the xenophobic populist shift in Swedish politics. She was joined by Jan Björklund, leader of the Liberals, and suddenly everything was up in the air. Center-right & conservative voters responded forcefully to these tumultuous conflicts in a predictable manner: M hemorrhaged voters to both SD and C.

    After the election, no party or putative coalition had a majority in Parliament. Ordinarily, this wouldn't be a problem--minority governments have been the norm in Sweden, and a PM can be elected so long as a majority of MPs don't vote against him/her. However, the past decade's political developments, and the dilemma presented by SD, had undermined the ability to build broad, cross-party consensus, and so an extremely vicious debate ensued. Löfven was ousted as PM but remained in charge of the interim govt. An M politician was appointed Speaker, and he gave Kristersson the task of negotiating with other parties to gain support for a govt. with M as the senior member and Kristersson as PM. Predictably, he failed, repeatedly, whereupon Löfven was given the chance to negotiate a govt--and he, too, failed. After these failures, it seemed inevitable that Annie Lööf would be given a chance to negotiate instead, but, in a remarkable twist, this was blocked by M politicians. The Speaker allowed Kristersson's PM nomination and his proposed minority govt. composed of M and KD to proceed to a vote in Parliament, where his gambit failed spectacularly--C and L defected from the Alliance and made good on their promise to oppose any govt. that would be reliant on SD, which this one would have been. This was a momentous event in modern Swedish politics, a de facto end to the center-right-conservative coalition at least for the time being. It sparked an unceasing torrent of vitriol directed against Annie Lööf (and, to a lesser extent, Björklund), now cast as a traitor, a despicable quisling. Both M and KD politicians lost their shit on social media, and there was much wailing and gnashing of teeth on conservative editorial pages.

    But this is when things got really interesting. After a long period of increasingly comical uncertainty, Löfven managed to strike a deal with MP, C and L, that would require S to make significant concessions on policy & budgetary issues in exchange for being allowed to form an S-MP minority govt. Everything seemed settled, until it was revealed that C had demanded a promise to exclude V from any influence, in much the same way that SD would be excluded. Understandably, V--who everyone had assumed would go along with this plan in order to block a right-wing govt or a snap election--objected, and vowed to block the proposed govt. unless the pledge to exclude V was rescinded. Shortly thereafter, V announced that it would abstain from voting against Löfven, but made clear their intention to initiate a vote of no confidence in the future if Löfven were to implement policies that V found unacceptable. It's not at all clear that Löfven would lose such a vote, were it initiated by V, but it settled the last remaining issue standing in the way of forming a govt, and so...

    ... at long last...

    ... on January 18th, Stefan Löfven was re-elected PM, with 115 MPs out of 192 voting in favour, and 77 abstentions--the weakest S govt. in several generations.

    Nothing seems certain. The attacks on C continue unabated, and it's difficult to say what this means for the future of the Alliance. I think that, so long as M insists on a leadership role, and so long as M continues to pick its leaders from the same pool of cynical, power-hungry and corrupt sleazebags, the Alliance has no real future. Lööf would make a better leader for the Alliance, but it's difficult to say whether she'll ever be able to assume that role, after her defection. S has managed to barely hang on to power, and I think they will have far greater difficulties implementing their campaign promises this time around, thanks to Lööf's shrewd and merciless maneuvering. At the municipal level, the M-SD-[KD] bloc is already here, with SD having enjoyed unprecedented success in local elections. It's difficult to predict how that will pan out. SD's local politicians are, as a group, extraordinarily incompetent--but after this election I think it will be easier to recruit people who aren't complete idiots, and I think that, in many ethnically homogeneous areas, this bloc is here to stay. What I'm really looking forward to is a political shift that finally recognizes the importance of new Swedish citizens, and first-time voters from immigrant backgrounds. Voter turnout has historically been low among immigrants, and the political establishment has traditionally behaved as if these voters are not political agents worthy of engagement. I think that will change in the next election, and I think these demographics represent the best hope for both the right and the left to resist the brownward shift in Swedish politics.
    “Humanity's greatest advances are not in its discoveries, but in how those discoveries are applied to reduce inequity.”
    — Bill Gates

  2. #2
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    Quote Originally Posted by Aimless View Post
    After over four months of wrangling, Sweden's interim govt. will turn into a proper govt. Stefan Löfven, leader of the Social Democrats (S), continues as PM, probably with a cabinet composed of S and Green Party (MP) MPs.

    I've lived in Sweden for 26 years, and this may be the most interesting election I've seen here in all that time. There was a remarkable amount of global attention due to the expected triumph of the far right Sweden Democrats (SD) and the far-FAR right Alternative for Sweden (AfS) fitting neatly into the prevailing narrative of the slow demise of the liberal world order. When the dust cleared, many commentators had egg on their faces (myself included):

    - SD made substantial gains with around 4.7% more of the vote share compared to the previous election, and 13 seats, but underperformed in comparison to expectations, while AfD was exposed as a ludicrous non-entity with 0.3% of the vote.

    - The Moderates (M) lost around 3.5% of the vote share and 14 seats (grossly underperforming).

    - S lost 2.75% and 13 seats, landing the party with an historically weak mandate, but not as weak as expected.

    - The Green Party, the junior member of the previous minority govt., lost around 2.5% (ending up just 0.5% over the threshold) and 9 seats.

    - The Center Party (C) had a very successful election, gaining by around 2.5% and 9 seats.

    - The conservative Christian Democrats (KD) gained 1.75% and 6 seats, which should be regarded as a spectacular performance given many expected them to fall below the threshold.

    - The Left (V) gained 2.29% and 7 seats.

    - The Liberals (L) gained a whopping 0.07% but that earned them an extra seat.

    Now, for just over a decade, Swedish politics has been divided into two political blocs: the center-right-conservative Alliance... and everyone else. As a result, in some contexts, analyzing Swedish politics through a two-party-lens has been very appealing. Under former M leader Reinfeldt, the Alliance was an effective coalition that managed to work in concert to win two elections despite implementing a number of very unpopular reforms. With their defeat in 2014, Reinfeldt made a hasty exit (seeing that the shit was about to hit the fan), and the Alliance has since been in a state of crisis.

    At the core of this crisis was the question of SD's growing electoral clout, representing an emerging populist socially conservative political bloc. Like conservatives elsewhere in the west, M & KD feared losing voters and influence to SD, and there was (and still is) a great deal of pressure within those parties to not only embrace (both covertly and overtly) elements of SD's rhetoric and policies, but also to start collaborating with SD on policy matters. For KD, this was a life-and-death issue--there appeared to be a real chance they'd fall below the threshold in the 2018 election due to losing conservative Evangelical voters to SD. For M, welcoming SD represented an obvious way to regain and retain an almost unassailable right-wing majority for the foreseeable future, with M as the uncontested leader of the coalition.

    To the surprise and consternation of many within M, things got complicated. It turns out that not all M members were on-board with this cynical means-ends approach to politics, and many had misgivings both on principled grounds as well as b/c of the lessons from other western countries where the center-right had tried to woo the far right. Attempts were made to assuage these fears, eg. through assurances that the Alliance would not directly collaborate with SD, but would not attempt to exclude SD from influence either--in effect making the Alliance reliant on SD's passive support on policy issues. The internal conflict became even more significant when the centrist and liberal members of the Alliance made it extremely clear that they would not countenance a rapprochement with SD. Anna Kinberg Batra, Reinfeldt's successor, tried to shift M in all directions at once in order to make everyone happy; unsurprisingly, she was punished by all factions, leading to her ouster--and the ascension of Ulf Kristersson to the position of party leader and Big Daddy of the Alliance.

    The problem was, M's leadership of the Alliance--let alone Kristersson's--was no longer a given. During the protracted identity crisis, Annie Lööf, C's leader, had emerged as an increasingly admired and respected representative of the center-right, and she staked all her political capital on the promise that C would never support a govt. that was reliant on SD's support. Over the course of the campaign period leading up to the election, she kept making a strong case for a principled center-right resistance in the face of the xenophobic populist shift in Swedish politics. She was joined by Jan Björklund, leader of the Liberals, and suddenly everything was up in the air. Center-right & conservative voters responded forcefully to these tumultuous conflicts in a predictable manner: M hemorrhaged voters to both SD and C.

    After the election, no party or putative coalition had a majority in Parliament. Ordinarily, this wouldn't be a problem--minority governments have been the norm in Sweden, and a PM can be elected so long as a majority of MPs don't vote against him/her. However, the past decade's political developments, and the dilemma presented by SD, had undermined the ability to build broad, cross-party consensus, and so an extremely vicious debate ensued. Löfven was ousted as PM but remained in charge of the interim govt. An M politician was appointed Speaker, and he gave Kristersson the task of negotiating with other parties to gain support for a govt. with M as the senior member and Kristersson as PM. Predictably, he failed, repeatedly, whereupon Löfven was given the chance to negotiate a govt--and he, too, failed. After these failures, it seemed inevitable that Annie Lööf would be given a chance to negotiate instead, but, in a remarkable twist, this was blocked by M politicians. The Speaker allowed Kristersson's PM nomination and his proposed minority govt. composed of M and KD to proceed to a vote in Parliament, where his gambit failed spectacularly--C and L defected from the Alliance and made good on their promise to oppose any govt. that would be reliant on SD, which this one would have been. This was a momentous event in modern Swedish politics, a de facto end to the center-right-conservative coalition at least for the time being. It sparked an unceasing torrent of vitriol directed against Annie Lööf (and, to a lesser extent, Björklund), now cast as a traitor, a despicable quisling. Both M and KD politicians lost their shit on social media, and there was much wailing and gnashing of teeth on conservative editorial pages.

    But this is when things got really interesting. After a long period of increasingly comical uncertainty, Löfven managed to strike a deal with MP, C and L, that would require S to make significant concessions on policy & budgetary issues in exchange for being allowed to form an S-MP minority govt. Everything seemed settled, until it was revealed that C had demanded a promise to exclude V from any influence, in much the same way that SD would be excluded. Understandably, V--who everyone had assumed would go along with this plan in order to block a right-wing govt or a snap election--objected, and vowed to block the proposed govt. unless the pledge to exclude V was rescinded. Shortly thereafter, V announced that it would abstain from voting against Löfven, but made clear their intention to initiate a vote of no confidence in the future if Löfven were to implement policies that V found unacceptable. It's not at all clear that Löfven would lose such a vote, were it initiated by V, but it settled the last remaining issue standing in the way of forming a govt, and so...

    ... at long last...

    ... on January 18th, Stefan Löfven was re-elected PM, with 115 MPs out of 192 voting in favour, and 77 abstentions--the weakest S govt. in several generations.

    Nothing seems certain. The attacks on C continue unabated, and it's difficult to say what this means for the future of the Alliance. I think that, so long as M insists on a leadership role, and so long as M continues to pick its leaders from the same pool of cynical, power-hungry and corrupt sleazebags, the Alliance has no real future. Lööf would make a better leader for the Alliance, but it's difficult to say whether she'll ever be able to assume that role, after her defection. S has managed to barely hang on to power, and I think they will have far greater difficulties implementing their campaign promises this time around, thanks to Lööf's shrewd and merciless maneuvering. At the municipal level, the M-SD-[KD] bloc is already here, with SD having enjoyed unprecedented success in local elections. It's difficult to predict how that will pan out. SD's local politicians are, as a group, extraordinarily incompetent--but after this election I think it will be easier to recruit people who aren't complete idiots, and I think that, in many ethnically homogeneous areas, this bloc is here to stay. What I'm really looking forward to is a political shift that finally recognizes the importance of new Swedish citizens, and first-time voters from immigrant backgrounds. Voter turnout has historically been low among immigrants, and the political establishment has traditionally behaved as if these voters are not political agents worthy of engagement. I think that will change in the next election, and I think these demographics represent the best hope for both the right and the left to resist the brownward shift in Swedish politics.
    Too long, didn't read. What's with the drama about a coalition forming of only 4 months resulting in a government with a solid majority?

    In the Netherlands and Belgium these talks typically last longer than that and we have governments that have under 5 seats majorities. Populist parties in parliament we've been used to for decades now, yet our goverments are more effective and efficient than the average British government.
    Greece shows us that there is a kind of politician worse than the ones that break their election promises; the ones that keep their election promises.

  3. #3
    RAFO
    “Humanity's greatest advances are not in its discoveries, but in how those discoveries are applied to reduce inequity.”
    — Bill Gates

  4. #4
    I read mostly...admittedly I haven't followed this much, but is there a major policy fight here beyond the AfS immigration harble garble?

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