Sweden’s parliament on Wednesday approved Magdalena Andersson as the country’s first female prime minister, tapping the finance minister who recently became the new leader of the Social Democratic party.
Andersson was tapped to replace Stefan Lofven as party leader and prime minister, roles he relinquished earlier this year.
The development marked a milestone for Sweden, viewed for decades as one of Europe’s most progressive countries when it comes to gender relations, but which had yet to have a woman in the top political post. Lofven’s government describes itself as feminist, putting equality between women and men at the heart of national and international work.
“I have been elected Sweden’s first female prime minister and know what it means for girls in our country,” Andersson said.
In a speech to parliament, Amineh Kakabaveh, an independent legislator who supported Andersson, noted that Sweden is currently celebrating the 100th anniversary of a 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,” she added. “Feminism is always about girls and women being complete people who have the same opportunities as men and boys.”
Andersson got a standing ovation and a bouquet of red roses as she accepted her appointment and said she was “really moved” by what Kakabaveh said. “She pinpointed exactly what I thought.”
In the 349-seat Riksdag, 117 legislators voted yes to Andersson, 174 rejected her appointment while 57 abstained and one legislator was absent. Under Sweden’s constitution, prime ministers can be named 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 a caretaker capacity until a new government is formed, something expected Friday. Andersson likely will form a two-party, minority government with her Social Democrats and the Green Party.
Andersson, 54, sought to secure the backing of the two smaller parties that supported Sweden’s previous centre-left, minority government led by Lofven — the Left Party and the Centre Party. Both abstained from voting against Andersson.
After days of talks, Andersson and the Left Party reached a deal to win the latter’s support. The deal focused on pensions, meaning a supplement of up to 1,000 kronor ($141) for about 700,000 pensioners on low incomes.
Andersson faces significant challenges.
Gang violence and shootings blight life in many major cities.
The COVID-19 pandemic exposed gaps in the much-vaunted welfare state and the government needs to speed up the shift to a green economy if it is to meet its climate change goals.
Sweden’s next general election is scheduled for Sept. 11.