Besieged Swedish Social Democratic Prime Minister Stefan Lofven said on Sunday he would step down in November to give a successor time to prepare for the September 2022 general election in the country.
Lofven was reinstated as prime minister by parliament in early July just weeks after he was ousted in a historic vote of no confidence.
He said at a political rally on Sunday that he “would quit my post as party chairman at the party congress in November and then step down as prime minister.”
Lofven, 64, has been the party leader for almost 10 years and Prime Minister since 2014.
“Everything comes to an end and I want to give my successor the best possible chance,” he said.
The former welder and union leader has led a weak minority government with the Green Party for the past three years, struggling to find a workable coalition following an inconclusive election in September 2018.
The announcement of his resignation came as a surprise, however, as Lofven had previously indicated that he wanted to lead the party in the next election campaign.
But Ewa Stenberg, political commentator at Swedish newspaper Dagens Nyheter, said it was a wise move on her part.
“Lofven is not a good campaign activist or debater, he is not the leader the Social Democrats need in a tough election campaign where rhetoric is important,” she wrote.
“In this context, it makes sense for him to pass the baton on to someone who can speak better and who can generate enthusiasm. “
– Woman as the next PM? –
It is not yet clear who will succeed Lofven as party leader, although Stenberg and other political commentators have speculated that Finance Minister Magdalena Andersson was a tip.
Andersson held the finance portfolio for seven years and occasionally replaced the Prime Minister.
Health Minister Lena Hallengren, who like Andersson enjoys relatively high ratings with the public, especially for her handling of the Covid-19 pandemic, was also mentioned as a possible successor.
Despite being a longtime champion of women’s rights and gender equality, Sweden, unlike its Nordic neighbors, does not yet have a female prime minister.
Whoever is elected to succeed Lofven as party leader would have to be approved by parliament in order to succeed as prime minister.
Since coming to power in 2014, Lofven has resisted the decline of social democracy in Europe, the rise of the far right and even the pandemic.
But it was weakened by a political crisis that erupted in June this year, when the Left Party that supported its coalition withdrew its support for a preliminary rent control reform plan.
Lofven was forced to resign after losing a vote of no confidence.
The opposition had the chance to form a government but failed to secure enough votes in parliament, which ultimately led a majority of lawmakers to reinstate Lofven as prime minister.
© 2021 AFP