by Patrick Ekstrand
STOCKHOLM, June 21 (Xinhua) -- Swedish Prime Minister Stefan Lofven lost a no-confidence vote on Monday after the very same issue that brought him to power led to him being the first sitting prime minister in the country's history to be ousted.
The no-confidence motion, which required 175 votes in the 349-seat parliament to pass, was supported by 181 lawmakers. Also, 109 parliamentarians voted against the motion and 51 abstained after the COVID-19 limit on the number of parliamentarians present in the chamber was temporarily lifted due to the extraordinary circumstances.
"We will now ponder which route to take," Lofven said in a press conference following his historic loss, which due to the nature of the Swedish constitution also means the entire government was ousted.
According to the same constitution, Lofven now has one week to decide whether to call a snap election, which has to be held within three months. Should he decide not to, the parliament speaker will be tasked with finding a new government based on the election results of 2018 -- the last time he tried it took 134 days.
As a result of the inconclusive 2018 election outcome, the leader of the Social Democrats had to strike a deal with two minor liberal parties to secure his second consecutive term.
After four months and several attempts to form a government, the 73-point deal enabled him to form a government together with the Greens. Although a minority government, it could pass bills with the help of these minor supporting parties.
One of the concessions the Social Democrats had to make was the easing of rent control on newly built apartments.
Although no bill over the matter has yet been put forward, the issue last week led to the Left Party suggesting a no-confidence vote. This as they claimed would be the first step to an entire deregulation of rent controls.
The Left Party's demand that the government must nip the issue in the bud was ignored by Lofven, partly because the Left Party does not have enough seats in parliament to put forward a motion of no-confidence on its own.
Instead, anti-immigration party Sweden Democrats saw an opportunity to oust the government and put forward such a motion.
Even though bitterly opposed to the Sweden Democrats, the leader of the Left Party said they would support this no-confidence motion. So did the conservative parties the Moderates and the Christian Democrats even though they see rental reform as necessary to solve the country's lack of housing.
"Today's government crisis was inevitable. This government should never have taken office," Ulf Kristersson, leader of the Moderates, wrote on Facebook.
Swedish Television's political commentator Mats Knutsson said: "For a long time it looked as if the minority government would make it until the end of the term, but the built-in divisions in the government's base have finally become too big."
What will happen now remains to be seen, as the constitution gives Lofven a week to decide what to do.
Henrik Ekengren Oscarsson, a political science professor at Gothenburg University, told daily Aftonbladet: "There is no winner in this kind of parliamentary mess. There will be more political instability and uncertainty. But it also depends on how long the crisis lasts."
The latest development also likely means a reshape of the Swedish political map, as parties which have previously refused to negotiate with what they label as "extremist parties" now might have to reconsider their position, said daily Dagens Nyheter's political commentator Ewa Stenberg.
By pushing Monday's vote, the Left Party and the Sweden Democrats have definitely broken a principle that has existed since 2010 when the Sweden Democrats entered the parliament. The idea of isolating the fringes of politics has in practice fallen with the government. It does not work after this and the political landscape will not be the same again.
One such example is the Center Party, one of the parties Lofven struck the 73-point deal with. Its leader Annie Loof has repeatedly said that she will under no circumstances talk to the Left Party, even though both parties share a strong dislike of the Sweden Democrats.
Should Loof reconsider her position, the parliament speaker might even ask Lofven to try to form a new government if a snap election is not called.
Whatever the outcome, the next government will only rule until September 2022 when the next general elections are held. Enditem