The Swedish parliament on Wednesday approved Magdalena Andersson as the country’s first female prime minister, replacing the finance minister who recently became the new leader of the Social Democratic party.
Andersson was chosen to replace Stefan Lofven as party leader and prime minister, roles he resigned earlier this year.
The development marked a milestone for Sweden, considered for decades to be one of the most progressive countries in Europe when it comes to gender relations, but which did not yet have a woman in the highest political position. The Lofven government describes itself as a feminist, putting equality between women and men at the heart of national and international work.
“I was elected the first female prime minister of Sweden and I know what it means for girls in our country,” Andersson said.
In a speech to parliament, Amineh Kakabaveh, an independent lawmaker who supported Andersson, noted that Sweden is currently celebrating the centenary of the decision to introduce universal and equal suffrage in the Scandinavian country.
“If women are only allowed to vote but are never elected to the highest office, democracy is not complete,” said Kakabaveh, who is of Iranian Kurdish descent.
“There is something symbolic in this decision,” he added. “Feminism is always about girls and women being whole people who have the same opportunities as men and boys.”
Andersson received a standing ovation and a bouquet of red roses when she accepted his appointment, saying she was “really moved” by what Kakabaveh said. “She pointed out exactly what she was thinking.”
In the 349-seat Riksdag, 117 lawmakers voted yes to Andersson, 174 rejected his appointment, 57 abstained and one lawmaker was absent. Under the Swedish constitution, prime ministers can be appointed and govern as long as a parliamentary majority, a minimum of 175 legislators, is not against them.
Lofven has been leading the Swedish government in an interim capacity until a new government is formed, something that is expected on Friday. Andersson is likely to form a bipartisan minority government with his Social Democrats and the Green Party.
Andersson, 54, sought to secure the backing of the two smaller parties that supported Sweden’s former center-left minority government led by Lofven: the Left Party and the Center Party. Both abstained from voting against Andersson.
After days of talks, Andersson and the Left Party reached an agreement to win the latter’s support. The deal focused on pensions, that is, a supplement of up to 1,000 crowns ($ 141) for some 700,000 low-income pensioners.
Andersson faces significant challenges.
Gang violence and shootings ruin life in many major cities.
The COVID-19 pandemic exposed the loopholes in the much-acclaimed welfare state and the government needs to accelerate the shift to a green economy if it is to meet its climate change goals.
Sweden’s next general election is scheduled for September 11.