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Sweden’s new leader quits hours after historic appointment

  • Updated

Sweden’s first female prime minister, Magdalena Andersson, got the worst possible start to her tenure when she was forced to resign only hours after her historic appointment.

The resignation was triggered after a junior partner to Andersson’s Social Democrats left her government over the loss of next year’s budget vote. The 54-year-old former finance minister, who had to step down to get another go at securing the top seat, said she is still ready to lead a one-party Cabinet and will now face a new vote.

The latest turbulence shows how the rise of the anti-immigrant Sweden Democrats has made it extremely difficult to form viable coalitions. Long seen as a two-horse race between a relatively unified center-right and a bloc of left-leaning parties led by the Social Democrats, the country’s political landscape has been upended by the nationalists, whose popularity is fed by worsening gun crime and tensions over immigration.

“I understand that this may look very messy, and what has happened is completely unique,” Andersson said as she announced her resignation less than eight hours after being appointed. “Despite the fact that the parliamentary positions appear unchanged, the issue should be tried anew. I don’t want to lead a government whose legitimacy might be questioned.”

The government briefly collapsed once already this year because of opposition to a plan to ease rent controls on new apartments. Andersson’s predecessor, Stefan Lofven, quit in June before being reinstated, and then surprised by announcing a resignation in August. The former union leader, a figure that was able to cobble together impossible alliances, had banked on cooperating with the center-right to keep the Sweden Democrats out of power.

Now, with an election less than 10 months away, the rising political instability may help the nationalists finally get a shot at power. Still, current opinion polls indicate no clear winner.

While the junior partner, the Green Party, said it won’t be part of Andersson’s Cabinet, it said it won’t block her appointment.

A center-right party that has previously supported the government refused to back Andersson’s budget in a parliamentary vote earlier Wednesday, sealing the fate of the government’s bill in favor of a competing proposal by conservative parties.

The amendment means some of the government’s key reforms, such as an extra week off for families, are ditched in favor of more spending on the justice system and a gasoline tax cut.


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