After 33 Men, Sweden’s First Female Prime Minister is Magdalena Andersson

by Dr. Giuseppina Scala

Giuseppina Scala is Postdoctoral Research Fellow in Comparative Public Law at the Department of Political Sciences, Legal and International Studies, University of Padua (Italy); Affiliate Research Fellow at the Center for Constitutional Studies and Democratic Development, Bologna (Italy); Academic Fellow at Bocconi University, Milan (Italy). As Affiliate Research Fellow at the Center for Constitutional Studies and Democratic Development, Dr Scala is in charge of the spin-off project “Legal Reforms in Nordic Constitutionalism: the Challenges of a State-religion” within the main research field “Constitutionalism in Illiberal Democracies”. At Bocconi University, she has been teaching several modules on Law and Religion within the module “Comparative Public Law”.

Sweden’s Minister of Finance Magdalena Andersson delivers a speach after being elected to party chairman of the Social Democratic Party, at the Social Democratic Party congress in Gothenburg, Sweden, 04 November 2021. EPA/Adam Ihse

The case of Magdalena Andersson is exeptional for two reasons. First, because she is the first female prime minister elected in the Kingdom of Sweden replacing Stefan Löfven; secondly because she has been elected twice in few days a hundred years after Swedish woman were given the vote. 

Magdalena Andersson is 54 years old, she started her political career in 1996 as adviser to the then prime minister Goran Persson finally spending the past seven years as finance minister in the Stefan Löfven government. She is the leader of the Social Democratic Party of Sweden where she now serves as the first female prime minister after 33 men. So, as of November 2021, four out of five prime ministers in Scadinavia[1] are women. In fact, at the moment, the other three prime ministers are: Mette Frederiksen (Denmark), Katrín Jakobsdóttir (Iceland) and Sanna Marin (Finland). Only in the kingdom of Norway a male represents the office as prime minister: he is the Labour leader Jonas Gahr Støre. The latter replaced a woman: Erna Solberg of the Conservative Party, who led the country over the last eight years. So, with the new office of Magdalena Andersson, the Nordic countries confirm their position as the leading legal orders in the field of gender equality between women and men. In these countries, the representation of women in political institutions is strongly high and the global gender gap index of 2021[2] shows how Iceland, Norway, Finland and Sweden are characterized by the most gender equal conditions in the field of economics, politics and education. 

Magdalena Andersson has been elected prime minister for the first time on November 24th 2021 with 117 voting in favour, 174 against and 57 abstained. This could happen because the Swedish Constitution provides that for the election of the office of prime minister he or she needs only the majority of MPs not to vote against. Art. 4, Chapter 5 of the Regeringsformen (The Instrument of the Government)[3] affirms that if more than half the members of the Swedish parliament (Riksdag) vote against the Speaker’s proposal for a new prime minister (that is at least 175 members), it is rejected; in any other case, the proposal is adopted. This means that Magdalena Andersson won the election by a single vote. However, after just few hours of her appointment, she resigned when her coalition partner (the Green Party) decided to quit the government because the budget was drafted with the anti-immigrant far right. In fact, in Sweden, as a consequence of a constitutional practice the prime minister is expected to resign if a coalition party leaves government.She then informed Anderas Norlen to be still interested on guiding a one-party government. This morning, MPs backed Magdalena Andersson by a new vote with 101 voting in favour, 75 abstained and 173 against.

The Swedish prime minister will hardly pass legislation without her historiacal political partner but she can prove her skilfulness from tomorrow, after a meeting at Royal Palace with the King Carl Gustaf XVI, to September next year when new general elections are scheduled. 

[1] As for Scandinavia, we refere here to the Nordic countries consisting of Norway, Sweden, Denmark, Finland and Iceland. 

[2] The global gender gap index aims at measuring national gender gaps in the fields of economics, politics and education. For more details, see: • Global gender gap index 2021 | Statista.

[3] The Regeringsformen of 1974 is one of the four Swedish Fundamental Laws. The other three Fundamental laws are: the Freedom of the Press Act (Tryckfrihetsförordningen) of 1949; the Freedom of Speech Act (Yttrandefrihetsgrundlagen) of 1991; and the Act of Succession of 1809.

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