Swedish PM Stefan Lofven formally resigns

Sweden’s Finance Minister Magdalena Andersson and Prime Minister Stefan Lofven present the Social Democrats’ election manifesto in Stockholm, Sweden.

Swedish centre-left Prime Minister Stefan Lofven formally resigned on Wednesday, opening the way for Finance Minister Magdalena Andersson to become the country’s first woman premier if she can win parliament’s approval.

Lofven, a former welder and union negotiator, has headed a minority coalition with the Greens since 2014 and said earlier this year that he would step down ahead of the next general election, due in September 2022.

Andersson replaced Lofven as leader of the Social Democrats last week and is likely to be the speaker of parliament’s first choice to form a new government.

“We have an election in scarcely a year and it is important that we have a quick handover,” Lofven, who had said in August he would hand in his resignation this month, told reporters. “I think voters want this to go smoothly.”

The speaker of parliament said he would hold talks with all parties and hold a press conference at 1445 GMT on Thursday.

It remains unclear if Andersson has enough support to pass a confirmation vote in parliament, which could happen next week.

She does not need a majority in the 349-seat parliament to back her as prime minister. But she must avoid a majority voting against her.

On Wednesday, the Centre Party agreed not to block Andersson’s candidacy in return for easier building regulations and changes to forestry ownership laws.

But Andersson will still need at least passive support from the formerly communist Left Party, whose leader, Nooshi Dadgostar, has demanded a say on policy.

If Andersson promises that, she risks losing the backing of the Centre Party, which has centre-right roots and wants to exclude the Left from any influence over government.

If parliament rejects Andersson, Moderate Party leader Ulf Kristersson will probably be given a try. He is backed by the populist, anti-immigration Sweden Democrats, a party that both the Centre and Left want to keep from influencing policy.

“The Left Party has to realize that there is going to be a new government and the question is which one do they want?” Lofven said.

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