The Washington Post

Sweden’s first female prime minister is back in office

Andersson had briefly resigned when member of ruling coalition quit

- BY RACHEL PANNETT rachel.pannett@washpost.com

Her historic initial appointmen­t as Sweden’s first female prime minister lasted a matter of hours.

Now, just a few days later, Magdalena Andersson is back and hopes to hold the job for a decade — if she can conquer the obstacles of minority government and an election due to be held in less than a year.

“It feels good, and I am eager to start working,” Andersson told reporters at a news conference Monday, in which she committed to an agenda focused on the environmen­t, welfare and tackling crime.

The 54-year-old former finance minister made history last Wednesday as the first woman to hold the premiershi­p, nearly 100 years after the Scandinavi­an country extended women the right to vote.

Scandinavi­a has a reputation as the home of some of the world’s most progressiv­e gender policies. But Sweden had long lagged behind its Nordic neighbors — Denmark, Norway, Finland and Iceland — in electing a woman to its highest office.

Just hours after her first appointmen­t, Andersson resigned from the post when a member of the ruling coalition at the time, from the center-left Green party, quit in protest after lawmakers passed a budget backed by three right-wing parties. Andersson’s Social Democratic Party had put forward an alternativ­e proposal that failed to pass.

On Monday, Andersson laid out plans for a minority government consisting only of the Social Democrats, who hold 100 seats in the 349-seat parliament. That would mean she requires support from rival parties for any new legislatio­n — a weakened position that could leave her government largely playing a caretaker role until national elections in September.

Andersson said Monday that her party, which has been in power since 2014, has a “long tradition of cooperatio­n.”

Her appointmen­t follows an uncharacte­ristically tumultuous period in Swedish politics. In June, Andersson’s predecesso­r, Stefan Löfven, became the first Swedish head of government to lose a no-confidence vote. Known for its stable democracy, the country has become increasing­ly polarized in recent years over issues such as immigratio­n and the integratio­n of asylum seekers.

The latest budget was drafted by opposition parties, including the far-right, anti-migrant Sweden Democrats, which has become one of the country’s most popular parties.

“If the parliament lasts until September, I suspect [Swedes will] vote for a less fragmented parliament in order to get past this turbulence,” said Andrew Scott, a politics expert at the Australia Institute’s Nordic Policy Center.

The new prime minister inherits stiff political challenges, including tackling escalating gang violence in major cities and rebuilding a health system strained by the coronaviru­s pandemic.

Chart-topping 19-year-old Swedish rapper Einar was shot dead in southern Stockholm last month, underscori­ng gang-related problems in the country.

Sweden also took a more hands-off approach to the pandemic than many other European nations by eschewing lockdowns. It has a much higher covid death rate than other Nordic nations, and the pandemic exposed gaps in the country’s vaunted welfare system.

There are around two dozen current female heads of state or government, according to U.N. Women, the United Nations agency focused on gender equality. Around half of those women head European countries, and the agency said gender parity in high political office will not be reached for another 130 years at the current rate.

Andersson won her second tilt as prime minister by a narrow margin, and experts predict that next year’s election will also be a difficult race. At Monday’s news conference, however, she painted an upbeat view of the political future.

“I don’t see this as the start of 10 months. I see this as the start of 10 years,” she told reporters.

 ?? TT NEWS AGENCY//REUTERS ?? Swedish Prime Minister Magdalena Andersson walks with her ministers in Stockholm. She has committed to an agenda focused on the environmen­t, welfare and tackling crime.
TT NEWS AGENCY//REUTERS Swedish Prime Minister Magdalena Andersson walks with her ministers in Stockholm. She has committed to an agenda focused on the environmen­t, welfare and tackling crime.

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