A “Borgen” political drama: Sweden’s first female head of government resigned 12 hours after taking office

The first woman in charge of the Swedish government, Magdalena Andersson, had to resign just hours after taking office because the opposition imposed an ultra-conservative budget on her to govern. Bjorn Larsson Rosvall / TT News. (TT NEWS AGENCY /)

In Stockholm yesterday a situation worthy of “Borgen”, the successful Danish Netflix series, was experienced. There, on the land that appears as soon as you cross the Øresund Bridge from Copenhagen, an extraordinary political drama unfolded. As the fictional prime minister, Birgitte Nyborg, her royal colleague, Magdalena Andersson, became the woman to hold that position for the first time in her country’s history. But he was not fortunate enough to spend an entire ten-episode season at Rosenbad Palace, the seat of government. It was only 12 hours. Those that elapsed between his assumption and his resignation. In the morning, the Swedish Parliament elected the Social Democrat Andersson to head a coalition government with her partners, the Greens and the ex-Communists of the Left Party. In the afternoon, when she was already preparing to go see King Carlos XVI Gustav of Sweden to formally present her government, she was forced to resign.

The 54-year-old economist failed to get the budget approved that he had presented to Parliament. Conservative parties, including the xenophobic far right, imposed theirs on him. He couldn’t accept blackmail. He had to go to buy time. Now he will try to form a one-party government. Governing in the minority, but without lowering the flags. Dangerous but possible in this much more flexible parliamentary system than the presidential one.

Anderson had saved the morning vote by just one vote. The Swedish procedure for the election of the premier office does not require a majority of votes, but requires not having the opposition of the majority of the House. There are 175 seats out of a total of 349. The Social Democrat won by one vote. 174 MPs opposed -117 voted in favor and 57 abstained-. The precinct erupted in applause, even from all those who voted against, not only had they found in record time someone to replace Stefan Löfven, also a socialist, who resigned on November 10 after losing a vote of no confidence, rather, Sweden was on a par with its Scandinavian neighbors and also added a woman to the top of power.

Borgen, Netflix
A scene from Borgen, the hit Netflix series, showing the political drama in Denmark around Prime Minister Birgitte Nyborg. (Netflix)

The opposition of the popular Swedes, the Christian Democrats and the extreme right-wing Democratic Party of Sweden, presented an alternative budget that had the support of the majority of the parliamentarians. This forced the new premier to govern according to the map imposed by the conservatives. The Greens were the first to react and they announced that they were leaving the government. Andersson had no other way out. It no longer had its own coalition or program. “According to constitutional practice, a coalition government must resign if a party leaves,” he explained to journalists. But he immediately signed up to head a new Executive: “I am ready to be prime minister in a one-party social democratic government.”

It was the epilogue of an announced story. The leader of the Center of Sweden party, Annie Lööf, had already ensured that her formation would not block the election of the head of government, but that she would in no way support the budget plan that emerged from the pact between the Social Democrats and the ex-communists. The budget of the left was based on an economy moving towards the energy transition and positioning Sweden as a global leader in the fight against climate change. It also considerably increased pensions and provided more resources for social plans. Higher expenses, indebtedness, state participation, all bad words for the opposition. And if the centrists struck the first blow against the progressive budget, it was the extremist Democrats who profited and outraged many. Per Bolund, the leader of the Greens, defined the situation as “a stormy moment for the country.” And he denounced the “political games of some parties.” “For us, politics is not a game”, he said before the cameras as his face flushed with nerves.

The now former prime minister will try to form a new majority this week. Andersson has held the position of Finance Minister since 2014 and has the training and drive to do so. When Premier Löfven announced to his party in August his intention to leave office, Andersson was positioned as the favorite both to lead the Social Democracy and the country. It is the one to return to negotiate and return to power. He has already made it clear that he is going to try to form a “pure social democratic” government. You can do it. The Greens and the centrists announced that they will support his inauguration. They will abstain from voting.

The official photo of the Prime Minister of Sweden, Magdalena Andersson, who was 12 hours in the post.  He is now expected to form a new government this week.
The official photo of the Prime Minister of Sweden, Magdalena Andersson, who was 12 hours in the post. He is now expected to form a new government this week. (GOVERNMENT OF SWEDEN /)

Anyway, it will not be easy at all. There will be national elections next year, in September, and the center-left and center-right blocks are almost tied in voting intention. Society is faced by two crucial issues, on the one hand, energy transition to comply with the cuts of gases that cause climate change and on the other the exponential increase in gang violence. Sweden lagged behind its neighbors in economic transformation and has suffered from youth gang fighting for years. It went from having one of the lowest firearm crime rates in Europe to one of the highest in the last two decades.

The country was rocked last month by the murder of one of the most famous rappers, 19-year-old Einar, shot in Hammarby Sjostad, a suburb of Stockholm plagued by insecurity. He had already been kidnapped and tortured a year earlier by a band of followers of another rapper, Yasin Byn, who ended up in jail accused of having plotted the attack. The spokesman for the small yet powerful Moderates party, Johan Forsell, wrote a tweet last week addressed directly to the budding prime minister. “The limits of what can be accepted in a civilized country have long been exceeded. We need actions, not words, to change course and put Sweden in order ”.

This is what Andersson faces. Yes, they would seem like minor issues given the gang violence that plagues Central America or the economic and social problems of South America, but It’s about that, Scandinavia, civilized and romantic politics which showed us – and made us so envious – the fantasy premiere Birgitte Nyborg in “Borgen”.