Swedish PM Fights for Survival as No-Confidence Vote Resurfaces

  • Two ministers targeted in no-confidence motions will step down
  • Main opposition bloc says the PM’s measures aren’t adequate

Sweden’s prime minister, Stefan Lofven, defied speculation that he would resign and instead replaced a number of ministers in his Cabinet in an effort to end a political crisis triggered by a government agency’s failure to protect classified data.

“I don’t want political chaos in Sweden, that’s not what we need right now,” Lofven told reporters in Stockholm on Thursday. But opposition parties representing a majority in the parliament soon made clear they didn’t think the steps the prime minister took were adequate.

Lofven said Sweden’s home affairs and infrastructure ministers will leave the Cabinet, after they were targeted in no-confidence motions. But Lofven told reporters he will keep his defense minister, arguing the specific motion against him was “not serious.”

Stefan Lofven

Photographer: Stina Stjernkvist/AFP via Getty Images

The Moderate Party, which is headed by opposition leader Anna Kinberg Batra, said there were still grounds to try to force the defense minister out. On Wednesday, Kinberg Batra blamed Lofven for throwing Sweden into “a serious security crisis.”

Lofven had started the week with a pledge to begin an investigation into the Swedish Transport Agency’s decision to outsource its IT operations to IBM in 2015. The agency ignored warnings from the Swedish Security Service, and sidestepped rules on outsourcing. Romania and the Czech Republic were among countries handling the contract, with foreign personnel who didn’t have Swedish security clearance gaining access to classified information. This included data on military vehicles, protected identities and Sweden’s register of drivers’ licenses.

In a tweet, Danske Bank’s chief economist for Sweden, Michael Grahn, said it’s likely the defense minister “will fail” to survive the motion. “If so, Lofven will resign?” SEB AB, one of Sweden’s biggest banks, raised similar doubts in a note to its clients.

Ebba Busch Thor, who leads the Christian Democrat party that forms part of the opposition Alliance, tweeted that “confidence in the defense minister is exhausted.”

“The prime minister hasn’t taken responsibility -- so we will demand responsibility in parliament,” she said. The opposition bloc’s motion will be backed by the anti-immigration Sweden Democrats, ensuring it a majority in the legislature.

The Alliance won’t seek en emergency session of parliament for the vote, backing away from its demand when three ministers had been targeted in no-confidence motions. Instead, it will wait until parliament re-opens after the summer break.

Swedes first learned of the breaches in July after the agency’s director general was fired and fined by prosecutors. Lofven says the government acted as soon as the situation was made known to the Justice Department. He says he was first informed of the issue in January. The opposition has criticized the defense minister, Peter Hultqvist, for failing to inform both the prime minister and parliament when he learned of the breach, in early 2016.

— With assistance by Niclas Rolander, and Kim McLaughlin

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