STOCKHOLM, Sweden (AFP) – Sweden’s elected Prime Minister Magdalena Andersson handed in her resignation on Wednesday hours after being nominated by parliament after her budget was not adopted and the younger Green party left the coalition government.
While her stay was unexpectedly short, Andersson wrote history by becoming the first woman to be elected to the post of Prime Minister of Sweden – she was to formally take over on Friday.
The 54-year-old economist, who has served as finance minister for the past seven years, said she hoped to be re-elected soon as head of a minority government made up solely of the Social Democrats.
“There is a constitutional practice that a coalition government should resign when a party steps out,” Andersson, a Social Democrat, told reporters.
“I do not want to lead a government whose legitimacy will be called into question.”
Just hours earlier, parliament had elected Andersson after she reached a last-minute deal with the Liberal Party to raise pensions in return for its crucial support in Wednesday’s vote in parliament.
But the small center party then withdrew its support for Andersson’s budget due to concessions to the Liberal Party, leaving her budget with insufficient votes to pass in parliament.
The legislators instead adopted an alternative budget presented by the opposition Conservative Moderates, the Christian Democrats and the right-wing extremist Sweden Democrats.
Andersson reluctantly said she would still be able to govern with that budget.
But in an even heavier and surprising blow, the leader of the Greens, Per Bolund, said that his party could not tolerate the opposition’s “historic budget, drawn up for the first time with the far right”, and left the government.
Among other things, it could not accept the opposition’s planned tax cut on petrol, which it said would lead to higher emissions.
– ‘A special day’ –
Speaker Andreas Norlen said he had accepted Andersson’s resignation and would contact party leaders before deciding on Thursday how to proceed.
Sweden’s largest daily newspaper, Dagens Nyheter, said in an editorial that the course of events could end in favor of Andersson, whom the Greens have promised to support in a new prime ministerial vote.
“The Social Democrats can have all the ministerial posts and avoid all compromises with the Greens,” it says.
Despite being a nation that has long fought for gender equality, Sweden has never before had a woman as prime minister.
After his election, Andersson called it “a special day” that came 100 years after the Scandinavian country allowed women the right to vote.
All other Nordic countries – Norway, Denmark, Finland and Iceland – have seen women lead their governments.
Andersson took over earlier this month as leader of the Social Democrats after Stefan Lofven.
He resigned as prime minister on November 10 after seven years in power in a highly anticipated move that should give his successor time to prepare for the country’s parliamentary elections in September 2022.
The change of leadership comes as the Social Democrats are currently hovering close to their lowest approval score ever with elections less than a year back.
Meanwhile, the right-wing opposition, led by the conservative Moderates, has in recent years moved closer to the anti-immigration Sweden Democrats and hopes to be able to govern with its informal support.
Andersson, a former junior swimming champion, has been nicknamed “bulldozer” by the media and is often described as “pragmatic” and a “technocratic bureaucrat”.
After being confirmed as the leader of the Social Democrats, she outlined her political priorities as moving away from the recent privatization of the welfare sector – schools, health care and elderly care – and making Sweden a global role model in climate change.
She also promised to stop the segregation, shootings and bombings that have plagued the country in recent years, usually due to gang-country rivalry or organized criminals fighting for the drug market.
Crime and immigration are expected to be among the Swedes’ biggest concerns at next year’s elections.
Political analysts have predicted a close race.