The Social Democratic leader defeated after nearly seven years in power over a plan to ease rent controls for new apartments.

Swedish Prime Minister Stefan Lofven lost a vote of no confidence, giving the Social Democratic leader a week to step down and give the president the task of finding a new government or calling early elections.

Swedish Democratic Nationalists took the opportunity to call Monday’s vote in parliament after the Left Party withdrew its support for the center-left government on a plan to ease rent controls for new apartments.

Sweden is in the midst of a housing crisis and house prices are skyrocketing in the country.

Lofven, 63, has been prime minister since 2014 and is the first Swedish prime minister to lose a no-confidence motion.

Swedish Democratic leader Jimmie Akesson told parliament the government was harmful and historically weak, adding: “It should never have come to power.”

The motion, which required 175 votes of Parliament’s 349 seats to pass, was supported by 181 lawmakers.

The Left Party blames Lofven

Lofven’s fragile minority coalition with the Green Party has relied on the support of two small center-right parties and the Left Party since a close election in 2018.

The Left Party blamed Lofven for the crisis.

“It was not the Left Party that abandoned the Social Democratic government, it was the Social Democratic government that abandoned the Left Party and the Swedish people,” said Left Party leader Nooshi Dadgostar .

Sweden is in the midst of a housing crisis and house prices are skyrocketing [File: Simon Johnson/Reuters]

With Parliament deadlocked, it is not clear who the president could turn to to form a new government if Lofven resigns.

Opinion polls suggest that the center-left and center-right blocs are balanced, so an early election might not bring clarity either.

Dadgostar said that even if his party voted against Lofven, it would never help “a right-wing nationalist government” to take power.

A new government or interim administration would only sit until parliamentary elections, scheduled for September next year.

Housing market issues

At the center of the controversy are plans to deregulate the housing market in Sweden, as prices accelerated during the pandemic.

Sweden has strict rent regulations aimed at keeping prices affordable in large cities. However, this discourages real estate developers from building new homes for the rental market.

People can find themselves waiting years for a rental agreement, while buying a property becomes more difficult as prices go up.

Sweden has strict rent regulations, but this deters developers from building new homes [File: Simon Johnson/Reuters]

The Left Party fears that deregulation of the rental market could lead to rapid price increases and deeper segregation between rich and poor.

Over the weekend, Lofven held last-minute meetings to try to get a parliamentary majority for his rent reform proposal.

On Sunday, he sought to ease the reforms by inviting landlords and tenant organizations for talks.

However, Dadgostar supported the Left Party’s decision to oppose Lofven and said his effort was “a political spectacle”.

“We did something that is seen as unusual in politics… we kept our word,” she said.

Swedish Left Party leader Nooshi Dadgostar speaks at a press conference after the vote of no confidence against Prime Minister Stefan Lofven, in Stockholm, Sweden, June 21, 2021 [TT News Agency/Andres Wiklund via Reuters]


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