It was material for a Hollywood suspense thriller: A week ago on Sunday the Swedish electorate went to the polls and until the very last minute, no one was really certain about who the winner was.
First, most media outlets declared incumbent Prime Minister Magdalena Andersson and her Social Democrats the winner.
However, as more and more votes were counted doubts emerged about whether or not the slim majority would hold. Finally, the center-right opposition coalition under Ulf Kristersson and his Moderates Party came out on top with 176 versus 173 parliamentary seats.
The official result proclamation normally takes place around seven days after an election as postal ballot papers need to be factored in; however, outgoing premier Andersson declared her stepping down from office already on Thursday as the final result was announced faster than expected.
The narrowest of all possible margins – 175 is the magic number to be allowed to form a government. But how will this new government be composed? Is Sweden headed for more or for less political stability, and above all else will a center-right coalition perhaps be more advantageous for bilateral relations between Ankara and Stockholm?
This year’s election was battled out between two political camps so to speak, two broad alliances with a social democrat/left/liberal camp on one side, and a conservative/center-right camp on the other side of the spectrum, respectively. The latter alliance comprises the Christian Democrats, Conservatives and Conservative Liberals; the former alliance the Social Democrats, the Greens, Center (Liberals) and the left.
Hence it was clear from the beginning that no single party alone would ever have a chance to govern but no matter who wins, an alliance of political thoughts and parties would take over.
The center-right Moderates with Kristersson as frontman came in third, with the formerly extreme-right Sweden Democrats in second and the Social Democrats in the first place, respectively, with smaller parties to follow from fourth place and below with eight parties represented in the national parliament, the Riksdag, in the capital Stockholm.
In most countries, the head of state would then duly ask the party having won the most seats regardless of how small a margin to start coalition talks and only if those yield no result hand over to the second-place party in another round of negotiations.
Not so in Sweden as the political conventions are different. Kristersson managed to pull off a deal before the voting day that allows him to form a minority government with the full support of the Sweden Democrats as this political party did not form an "official" part of his alliance.
That said it would not have mattered if the Social Democrats with Andersson had come in first as she would under no circumstances have managed to obtain enough support from conservative parliamentarians straying away from their own party to continue to run the country. Confused? Many international observers are, but minority governments are nothing extraordinary up here in Sweden.
The question on everyone’s mind is the following: Agreeing with a far-right political movement of a "tolerated" minority government had been the case during the past two governments, and assuming that perhaps no member of the Sweden Democrats will hold the leading government or Cabinet posts demands from Kristersson a huge deal of giving and take.
Hence, how far to the right will he shift to obtain continuous support for his principal policy-making efforts? Will he copy and paste parts of their program or simply allocate and reserve a few "hot picks" such as migration for that difficult partner? Observers speculate already that a government with so many uncertainties will not last very long – that is unless one issue is taken into consideration that seems to unite moderate and far-right conservatives: putting Sweden first.
If this bodes well with the electorate once the first 100 days are ticked off, we might see more of a stable government indeed. But what does putting Sweden first entail? More independence is highly unlikely as Stockholm is eager to join NATO. Less European Union bureaucracy? Equally a non-starter as Sweden will be at the rotating EU presidency helm from Jan. 1, 2023, onward. Ending globalization? Fighting climate change alone? Special relations with Moscow? It appears as if putting Sweden first is nothing but a cleverly timed and worded slogan.
One would assume that defense and national security are the hallmarks of any conservative government, right up there with preserving a state’s territorial integrity or in the case of NATO, an alliance’s territorial integrity, as non-negotiable parts and parcels of center-right policy making. There is, of course, one exception to this rule, and it applies to countries who nevertheless may think conservative yet under the banner of neutrality. Here past Swedish policies come into the fore and one can only guesstimate how cumbersome it must have been behind closed doors for a social democrat-led government to overcome hesitations vis-a-vis any military alliance as is common in many center-left/left political circles.
Now, all that changes, or will it?
For the purpose of this brief analysis, one issue is of special relevance. Will a Kristersson administration finally accept that Türkiye has legitimate concerns about Stockholm not doing enough to erase the outlawed PKK terrorist organization from its soil, allowing demonstrations and manifestations in broad daylight where terror sympathizers freely mix and mingle? Should a conservative-led government not automatically declare full support for Türkiye, as after all, terrorists normally attack "the establishment," which is mostly perceived as being part of the conservative spectrum? Do terrorists not aim at destroying democracy, which they ill-fatedly argue is based on capitalism and exploitation?
This would necessitate Stockholm not only to continue arguing that it was one of the first European countries to declare the PKK a terrorist network but also to accept the fact that a large group of supporters is active on Swedish soil. As we learned per example from this year’s German intelligence report, PKK supporters are engaged in many illegal activities such as drug and human trafficking and money laundering.
Approximately 14,500 PKK supporters are estimated to live in Germany. It would be a timely step by any new Swedish government to take this threat seriously, including its intelligence services, as a terrorist once devoid of his or her former "terror playground" might turn around and declare war on the very nation that sheltered her or him in the first place.
Calling one model of democracy such as modern Türkiye "undemocratic" might one day result in calling another model democracy, Sweden, "undemocratic" hence requiring urgent "terror action."
International solidarity should not be confused with thinking terrorists are freedom fighters with a just cause. Terrorists are not old men's tea-drinking clubs either.
They are intent on destroying our very societal foundations to replace democracy with anarchy and a dictatorship.
That is the way the PKK operates. That is the way another terror organization, the Gülenist Terror Group (FETÖ), operates.
Perhaps a new government in the Riksdag will appreciate Türkiye’s unwavering efforts to not only to end terrorism at home but everywhere. Will Sweden become an ally of choice in this regard? We shall see after the first 100 days if any new government is ready to sort out internal affairs.