Sweden gets a government

Sweden gets a new government this week: last Friday, the four parties that jointly won a three-seat majority in last month’s election announced an agreed program that would make Moderate Party leader Ulf Kristersson prime minister. He is expected to win parliamentary approval tonight.

But not all four parties will join the government. The ministry will be drawn from the centre-right Moderates, the Christian Democrats and the Liberals. The largest of the four parties, the far-right Sweden Democrats, will support it in return for input on policy but will officially remain on the outer.

So while the month-long negotiations have given the Sweden Democrats a lot of what they wanted in policy terms – including hostility to immigrants, the European Union and climate science – the other parties got what they wanted most: keeping the far right out of government. The Liberals in particular seem to have treated that as a bridge too far.

Although they are the smallest of the four parties, with just 16 of the 349 seats in parliament, the Liberals have a powerful position here because they are the ones in the middle. If the government tilts too far to the right, they can bring it down at any point by defecting to the centre-left opposition: and any threat to do so is entirely credible because they have done it before, following the 2018 election (before shifting back in 2021).

The Sweden Democrats, with a much larger contingent of 73, don’t really have the same power. They can withdraw their support, but Kristersson then has the option of negotiating a grand coalition with the Social Democrats. The current deal will last only for as long as he regards that as an inferior option to giving in to far-right policies.

Meanwhile in Italy, which voted a fortnight later, talks are still going on for the formation of a new government. On one view it should be easier, since there is no liberal party to be dealt in; far right and centre-right won a clear majority between them, with 237 of the 400 seats in the lower house.

But there is Silvio Berlusconi, whose politics, amidst the usual self-aggrandisement, does have a liberal streak to it, and he seems to be making trouble. Reports at the weekend quoted a note from him that described far-right leader and likely prime minister Giorgia Meloni as “patronizing, bossy, arrogant and offensive” – not a good start.

Most probably such differences will be papered over and the right-wing alliance will duly form government. But as in Sweden, it will have a degree of built-in instability, and it will not give the far right all that it wants.

7 thoughts on “Sweden gets a government

  1. Interesting, but unreliable. The Sweden Democrats don’t look “far right”. Goodness, they even support gender reassignment.

    “The Sweden Democrats oppose current Swedish immigration and integration policies, instead supporting stronger restrictions on immigration. The party supports closer cooperation with Nordic countries, but is against further European integration. The Sweden Democrats are critical of multiculturalism and support having a common national and cultural identity, which they believe improves social cohesion. The party supports the Swedish welfare state but is against providing welfare to people who are not Swedish citizens and permanent residents of Sweden, a policy known as welfare chauvinism. The Sweden Democrats support a mixed market economy combining ideas from the centre-left and centre-right. The party supports same-sex marriage, civil unions for gay couples, and sex reassignment surgery but prefers that children be raised in a traditional nuclear family. The Sweden Democrats support keeping Sweden’s nuclear power plants in order to mitigate climate change but argues that other countries should reduce their greenhouse gas emissions instead of Sweden, which the party believes is doing enough to reduce their emissions. The Sweden Democrats support generally increasing minimum sentences for crimes, as well as increasing police resources and personnel. The party supports increasing the number of Swedish Army brigades and supports raising Sweden’s defense spending.” https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Sweden_Democrats

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    1. Thanks Graham. It’s all relative, of course; certainly the Sweden Democrats have moderated their position in recent years (as I’ve pointed out a few times). But given their origins and their place on the Swedish spectrum I think “far right” is still the appropriate label.

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      1. Of course it’s all relative: ‘right’ and ‘left’ are relative terms by definition, and so is ‘far’! The obvious evidence that the Sweden Democrats are far to the right is that the other right parties don’t want to include Sweden Democrat ministers in their government, which can only be because they consider the Sweden Democrats to be too far to the right for them: why else would they be doing this? There’s a long history of people (including the far-right parties themselves) trying to pretend that far-right parties are not far right, but that’s no reason to fall for the pretence.

        What interests me is the obvious tension between saying that ministers from the Sweden Democrats (for whatever reason) cannot be included in the government (which can only mean that there is something about them, however you choose to describe it, which is considered to be objectionable) and then making an explicit government-formation deal with them (despite whatever it was that was considered to be objectionable about them). How can Ulf Kristersson and his allies possibly justify this to anybody? How do they justify it to themselves?

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      2. Thanks J-D. I think it’s plausible that a party might say, “Look, these people are too far out of the mainstream to be safely allowed to be ministers or set policy, but they’re not so toxic that we shouldn’t be prepared to deal with them at all” – particularly if they can claim that they haven’t made any major concessions to them in policy terms. Whether that’s actually what Kristersson & the others believe or whether they’re just rationalising a purely pragmatic decision is another question.

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  2. If the Sweden Democrats are telling their supporters, ‘Yes, we did extract concession from the other parties’, and the other parties are telling their supporters, ‘There’s nothing to worry about, we didn’t concede anything to those extremists’, then it seems to me that you’ve got a situation where both sides are leaving the negotiations thinking that they’ve swindled the other side, and not only that, knowing that the other side thinks the same, and not only that, but thinking, ‘We know that you know that we think we’ve swindled you and don’t care because you think that’s how you’ve swindled us, but more fool you’.

    If that’s what’s going on, it can’t be a good basis for anything.

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    1. Yet I think that’s probably quite close to what they are telling them. They wouldn’t use the word “swindled” – maybe more like “got the better of the deal.” And I think a lot of political negotiations work that way.

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      1. I don’t know how common it is in politics, but I think there’s good reason to doubt the durability of a partnership or alliance (in or out of politics) which is based on each side thinking it’s outsmarted the other. A rude awakening for somebody seems more likely.

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