Sweden scandal takes down 2 ministers
Prime minister vows to stay on despite snap election rumors
Two Swedish ministers lost their jobs on Thursday over a huge leak of sensitive data that has rocked the fragile centerleft government.
But Prime Minister Stefan Lofven vowed he would be staying on despite speculation he could call a snap election.
Interior Minister Anders Ygeman, a political heavyweight previously seen as a likely future prime minister, has resigned, Lofven said at a press conference, adding that Infrastructure Minister Anna Johansson will also step down.
Ygeman reportedly knew about the leak from the national transport agency, which made the private data of millions of citizens accessible abroad, but failed to tell the prime minister.
The scandal has blown up in recent weeks after it emerged that an entire database on Swedish drivers’ licenses was made available to technicians in the Czech Republic and Romania, with media reporting that the identities of intelligence agents may have been jeopardized.
Lofven’s Social Democrat-led minority government has been badly rattled by one of Sweden’s largest data breaches in decades, and opposition parties had threatened the coalition with a vote of no confidence.
Some political commentators had expected Lofven to call an early election at Thursday’s press conference – but he insisted that he intends to serve his full term, which ends in 2018.
“I have no intention of plunging Sweden into a political crisis,” he said, pointing to “formidable challenges” the country is facing including tensions in the Baltic region, Brexit as well as the government’s plans for social and economic reforms. “I looked at several alternatives, and I chose the best one for the country,” Lofven said.
The data leak stems from the Swedish transport agency’s hiring of IBM in 2015 to take over its IT operations.
IBM in turn used subcontractors in the Czech Republic and Romania – making the sensitive information accessible by foreign technicians who did not have security clearance.
The Swedish military said information on its personnel, vehicles as well as defense and contingency planning could have been included in the leak, although the transport agency denied having a register on military vehicles and said there was no indication the data had been “spread in an improper way.” AFP