On 24 November 2021, Sweden Parliament kept up history by electing the country’s first female Prime Minister, Magdalena Andersson. Upon her appointment, the 54-year-old Social Democrat was greeted with a standing ovation by sections of the Riksdag. Sweden was the only Nordic state left to elect a woman as Prime Minister.
Andersson was elected leader under Swedish law which requires only most MPs to not vote against her. Of the three-hundred-forty-nine members of the Riksdag, a hundred-seventy-four voted against her, a hundred-seventeen backed her, and fifty-seven abstained. Just one vote gave her victory.
The new Prime Minister began her political career in 1996 as a political adviser to the then Prime Minister, Goran Persson, and spent the last seven years as the nation’s Finance minister.
Nordic women’s leadership
As of November 2021, four out of five of the prime ministers of the Nordic countries are women. Nordic states elected their first female Prime Minister ever in 1986. Norwegian Gro Harlem Brundtland, a member of the Labour Party, was elected leader of her nation. Brundtland served another term after being re-elected in 1990. In 2013, leader of the Conservative Party Erna Solberg became the second female Prime Minister of Norway.
Finland was the next Nordic state to elect a female Prime Minister when Anneli Jäätteenmäki, a member of the European Parliament, took office in 2003. In 2010, Centre Party Convention member Mari Kiviniemi took over the country’s leading position. Nine years later, in 2019, Social Democrat Sanna Mirella Marine was elected Prime Minister.
In 2009, Iceland elected Jóhanna Sigurðardóttir of the Social Democratic Party, and, since 2017, Katrín Jakobsdóttir, member of Althing for the Reykjavík North constituency, has been leading the state.
Denmark elected its first female Prime Minister, Helle Thorning-Schmidt, leader of the Social Democrats, in 2011, and, since 2019, the leader of the Social Democrats, Mette Frederiksen, has been serving in the role.
The historic milestone for Sweden, came to an abrupt halt when Andersson resigned before the sun could set that day.
Shortly after her appointment, her coalition partner quit the government and her budget failed to pass. The Green Party said it could not accept a budget “drafted for the first time with the far-right.” Parliament voted for a budget drawn up by a group of opposition parties, including the far-right Sweden Democrats.
Andersson followed a constitutional practice, where a coalition government should resign when one party quits and decided to resign saying that she did not “want to lead a government whose legitimacy will be questioned.”
Five days later, 29 November, Andersson was once again appointed the nation’s first female Prime Minister through a razor-thin vote. A hundred-one MPs backed the Social Democratic Party leader, while seventy-five abstained and a hundred seventy-three voted no. With the departure of the Green Party, Andersson formed a one-party, minority government and will lead until an election in September 2022.
It will not be an easy feat as a minority leader heading one of Sweden’s weakest governments in recent decades with just a hundred out of three-hundred-forty-nine parliamentary seats and a budget that was imposed on her by the opposition.
Despite this, Andersson expressed “it feels good, and I am eager to start” to reporters. Albeit the lack of support of other parties, and the anticipated struggle to pass legislation in parliament, where Social Democrats hold 100 seats, Prime Minister Andersson said she was ready “to take Sweden forward” focusing on the welfare system sorely tested by the Covid-19 pandemic, climate change, and crime and gang violence.
Andersson says she is excited, eager, and equipped to take on her position now and for the future: “I don’t see this as the start of ten months, I see this as the start of ten years”, she told journalists at a news conference.