Sweden votes in Magdalena Andersson as first female PM

Image source, ReutersImage caption, Many MPs gave the new prime minister (right) a standing ovation in the Riksdag

Magdalena Andersson has been approved by Sweden's parliament as the country's first ever female prime minister, after replacing Stefan Lofven as leader of the centre-left Social Democrats.

Sweden is the only Nordic country never to have elected a woman as national leader before.

Ms Andersson, who's currently finance minister, did not win Wednesday's vote.

However, she was elected because under Swedish law she only needed a majority of MPs not to vote against her.

A hundred years after Swedish women were given the vote, the 54-year-old Social Democrat leader was given a standing ovation by sections of the parliament, or Riksdag.

Her election at the head of a minority government followed an 11th-hour deal with the opposition Left party, in exchange for higher pensions for many Swedes. She also secured the support of coalition partner the Greens as well as the Centre party.

Of the 349 members of the Riksdag, 174 voted against her. But on top of the 117 MPs who backed Ms Andersson, a further 57 abstained, giving her victory by a single vote.

A former junior swimming champion from the university city of Uppsala, she began her political career in 1996 as political adviser to then-Prime Minister Goran Persson. She has spent the past seven years as finance minister.

However, she faces a tough job from the outset, with opposition parties on the right saying they'll reject the government's 2022 budget later on Wednesday. The Centre party, which backed her for the job of prime minister, says it will not support a finance package from a government "moving far to the left".

Sweden finally gets female PM

With a self-labelled "feminist government", and a brand tied to "gender-equal" policies like shared parental leave, it is a paradox that Sweden hasn't had a woman as prime minister until now. All the other Nordic nations currently have or have had women in charge.

Norway was first with Gro Harlem Brundtland in 1981.

It is hard to say why Sweden has lagged behind its neighbours, since women have long had a strong political presence. Around half of all MPs are women. Including Ms Andersson's Social Democrats, six out of eight parties in parliament currently have female leaders.

Image source, EPAImage caption, Magdalena Andersson has been finance minister for seven years

One factor may be that the Social Democrats have had long spells in government, and parties in power can be less likely to replace leaders as regularly.

Tragedy may have also played a role.

In the early 2000s, Foreign Minister Anna Lindh was seen as a likely candidate to take over from Social Democrat Prime Minister Goran Persson, but she died after a stabbing attack. Mona Sahlin led the party from 2007 to 2011, but there was low confidence in her leadership and she lost the 2010 election.

As well as the uphill task of getting a budget passed, Ms Andersson faces other big challenges as she takes on the role.

Although Sweden has a relatively low rate of Covid-19 infection, there are concerns that infections will peak next month.

The government announced on Wednesday that third Covid vaccinations would be rolled out to everyone over 18, and that vaccination passes would be required for any public gathering involving over 100 people from 1 December.

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To play this video you need to enable JavaScript in your browser.Media caption, Integrating the Swedish way (from 2018)

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