Is Sweden heading for a new election?
Sweden’s parliament is voting on a new budget on Wednesday. But in a land of complicated coalition politics there’s a risk it won’t get passed and even talk of fresh elections. The Local got the lowdown on a crucial week from political scientist Nicholas Aylott.
What exactly is going on?
The new Social Democrat-Green government which was elected in September is trying to get its budget through parliament. The problem is that the government has a narrow base in parliament because the two governing parties - the Social Democrats and the Greens - don’t have a majority in parliament. Depending on how the other parties vote, the budget could either sail through or the coalition could be facing a ship wreck.
What about the other parties. Are they presenting budgets too?
It is tradition in Swedish politics that the main opposition party or parties also put forward an alternative budget. So there will be a rival proposal from the four centre-right parties – the Alliance – that made up the previous coalition government in Sweden. The nationalist anti-immigration Sweden Democrats are also submitting a budget.
So politicians have actually got to vote on three possible budget packages?
Yes. And to make matters more complicated there are several rounds of voting. What we can say for sure is that the Sweden Democrats’ budget proposal will be rejected in the first round. Big surprise!
According to political convention, they should then abstain in subsequent votes on the other packages. But they could rock the boat by choosing to vote for the Alliance’s centre-right rival budget.
This could mean that the Alliance’s budget gets more votes than the government’s proposal.
Does this mean that the opposition budget could end up being passed by parliament?
Yes that is entirely possible and this is why there’s been a big fuss in Swedish politics this week. It wouldn’t be easy for the centre-left parliament to stay in power if it was following a centre-right coalition’s financial plans.
Are Swedes going to be called back to the polls again then?
This is possible, but it is the least likely of five potential scenarios.
1. The Sweden Democrats formally announce that they plan to support the Alliance’s budget before the vote on Wednesday. The government postpones the vote, asks the parliamentary finance committee to reconsider and make adjustments to the budget and gives everyone more time to take stock of the situation. This is the most probable outcome.
2. The Sweden Democrats decide to follow convention and abstain once their own proposal has been voted down, allowing the Social Democrat-Green budget to go through after all. The party has been flexing its muscles but may decide that it is better in the long term to be seen as a responsible rather than disruptive political force - especially while its leader Jimmie Åkesson is on sick leave.
3. The Alliance’s budget gets passed, thanks to support from the Sweden Democrats and the government decides to stay in power and try and implement it. This is the second least likely scenario. Left wing party members would find it hard to tolerate a centre-right budget.
4. The Alliance’s budget gets passed thanks to support from the Sweden Democrats and the government resigns and tries to re-form itself. The two current coalition parties could remain in office; new parties might be added; or, a bit more likely, the Social Democrats might dump the Greens and have a go on their own.
5. The Alliance’s budget gets passed thanks to support from the Sweden Democrats and so the government resigns and calls a new election. Voters are not expected to relish the prospect of a vote so soon after the last one. All political parties could stand to lose rather than gain votes in a future poll. Plus elections cost a lot of money and the instability wouldn’t send good signals to the rest of the world. This is the least likely scenario.
So Sweden isn’t really heading for a political crisis then?
Despite all the coverage and possible problems, many political analysts concur that the budget is a manageable issue for the country and parliament will probably find a way to work through things. But it is certainly a tense time.