Posts Tagged ‘budget motion’

Low farce as Stefan Löfven gives up – will call a new election on 29th December

December 3, 2014

It has been another busy day in the Swedish parliament and for the political commentators. The 2-month old Red/Green government’s budget (supported by the communistic far Left) was defeated in Parliament. The alternative budget presented by the right-leaning Alliance of opposition parties, was also supported – going against past practice – by the far-right Sweden Democrats, and prevailed. We now have the very odd situation of a Red/Green government now having to administer the opposition’s budget which comes into force on 1st January 2015. It has been a spectacular failure by the Red/Green government after just 2 months in power.

Stefan Löfven, the Prime Minister, could have just resigned and let the speaker try to get a government cobbled together which could manage to get a budget passed. Strictly he could not call a new election since it has been less than 3 months since this parliament first met. Those 3 months are up on December 29th.

Many political commentators called this the most dramatic happening in Swedish politics since 1958! But I thought there was more of low farce than of high drama in the proceedings today. Everybody had announced how they were going to vote yesterday. There was 6 hours of meaningless debate in parliament before the vote.  Each speaker tried to avoid blame. CYA of the lowest order! Löfven called a press conference and lashed out like a very sore loser. He blamed everybody else and then announced that he would be calling a new election on December 29th to be then held on 22nd March next year. He comes from the trade union movement and has had a reputation as a good negotiator in industrial disputes. But his wage negotiation skills were not up to political negotiations. He has moved too far, too fast to the left in appeasing the Greens and the far Left party. So much so that he misjudged his strengths and weaknesses completely. He provided the Sweden Democrats an irresistible opportunity to become the centre of attraction in bringing him down. In fact he also managed with his lurch to the left to alienate the Alliance so much that it became impossible for them to rescue him (even if they had wanted to) from the quagmire of his own making.

So today he threw his hands up in the air and announced he was giving up and that he would call a new election – when he could – and ask the electorate to take the call on his budget. It strikes me that this is not just giving up. It is also a tacit acknowledgement of misjudgements and a lack of competence in managing the process of getting his budget passed.

Maybe he is hoping that before the new election is actually called 26 days from now, that the Alliance or just the Moderate Party (2nd largest party in parliament) will somehow find a way of saving his face by offering him some form of cooperation. Maybe his public announcement that he would campaign together with the Greens is just negotiating tactics. Arithmetically the only way for a majority to form is if the Social Democrats cooperate with the Alliance or just the Moderates. It is highly unlikely that the Moderate Party will just abandon its allies. The chances for the Alliance to form a Grand Coalition with the Social Democrats is extremely small and will extract a heavy price. The Social Democrats would have to dump the Greens and the far Left. That price may be too heavy for the Social Democrats

But I can speculate that if the Social Democrats have the long term in mind and are prepared to dump the Greens and the far-Left, Löfven could retain the post of Prime Minister in a Grand Coalition with the Alliance. They would command a very stable parliamentary majority which could manage to keep the Sweden Democrats completely marginalised. But some of the key portfolios – such as Finance, Defence and Foreign Affairs – would have to go to the Alliance. It may not be politically possible for this crop of politicians, but it could be the best possible thing for the country.

But unless some such cooperation is finalised within the next 26 days, the Swedish parliamentarians would have failed the electorate. And just going back to the electorate may produce the same result and solve nothing.

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