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Sweden: Justice minister survives no-confidence vote

June 7, 2022

The government averted a political crisis after striking a deal with an independent lawmaker. Right-wing parties had triggered the vote over claims not enough is being done to stem violent crime.

Swedish Justice Minister Morgan Johansson
A no-confidence vote against Justice Minister Morgan Johansson was triggered by a far-right party unhappy with a violent crime waveImage: Henrik Montgomery/TT/picture alliance

Swedish Justice Minister Morgan Johansson on Tuesday narrowly survived a no-confidence vote, preventing another political crisis.  

Sweden's parliament, the Riksdag, was holding a no-confidence vote against him as he was blamed for failing to quash rising violence.

Johansson can stay as justice minister with the support of 174 lawmakers, while 97 voted no, 70 abstained and 8 were absent, according to Swedish broadcaster SVT. 

In June 2021, former Prime Minister Stefan Löfven lost a confidence vote, only to put together a caretaker government that lasted for six months until the ex-leader asked to be dismissed from parliament.

Since November, Prime Minister Magdalena Andersson of the Social Democrats has been leading one of the smallest minority governments in Sweden's history.

All eyes on independent lawmaker

The no-confidence vote was launched by the far-right Sweden Democrats, and quickly joined by the conservative Moderate Party along with the Liberal Party and the Christian Democrats. Together, the four parties control 174 seats, meaning they needed only one more vote for the motion to pass.

It had looked like Independent lawmaker Amineh Kakabaveh would cast the deciding vote, after having done so to make Andersson prime minister in the fall.

However, early on Tuesday, she told broadcaster SVT that she would probably refrain from voting, meaning that Andersson's government would continue on.

Kakabaveh, who is of Iranian Kurdish origin, had already become a focal point in Swedish politics as the country's recent bid to join NATO is currently being blocked by Turkey.

Ankara accuses Stockholm of providing a safe haven for the outlawed Kurdistan Workers' Party (PKK), listed as a "terrorist" group by Turkey and its Western allies.

Since the vote was announced last week, Kakabaveh had said she was seeking assurances from the ruling Social Democrats that they would not cave in to Turkish demands in their efforts to pave the way to membership, otherwise she would vote against Johansson.

Turkey's Erdogan opposes NATO bid by Sweden, Finland

PM: 'Completely irresponsible' to create more turmoil

Andersson had made it clear that the whole government would resign if Johansson lost the vote.

The prime minister called the vote "completely irresponsible" at a time when the country is already in upheaval, having recently nixed decades of neutrality and applied to join NATO over fears of Russian aggression. 

But the conservative and far-right parties say they are upset with rising gang violence in Sweden, including a strong uptick in gun deaths.

In the past two decades, as gun violence has significantly decreased in many other EU countries, it has continued to climb in Sweden. According to public broadcaster Sveriges Radio, in 2021, gun violence carried out by gangs had increased tenfold compared to the early 1990s.

Analysts have pointed out that even if Prime Minister Andersson resigns, she will likely remain prime minister leading an interim government as the general election in September is only four months away.

es/fb (AFP, Reuters)

Correction: A previous version of this article misstated that the Social Democrats were currently in a coalition with the Greens, which is not the case.