Sweden’s snap election: a warning for a British minority government

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The snap election called in Sweden will worry both Ed Miliband and David Cameron, either of whom could end up in a similar situation next May.

On Wednesday, the centre left minority government formed just this October, lost a key budget debate, resulting in Sweden’s first snap election in over fifty years.

The minority coalition running the country was formed after Sweden’s general election this year and consisted of the Social Democrats and the Greens. The coalition lost the budget vote 182-153. The far right party, the Swedish Democrats, voted with the opposition, resulting in this collapse.

The political events from across the North Sea are a warning sign to any future of Prime Minister of the United Kingdom next year. The situation is, in many senses, completely different to what we could have over here, but it does emphasise the instability of minority governments. And considering it’s incredibly unlikely that neither the Conservatives nor Labour will gain a majority next May, they will need to be careful.

In the UK, thanks to the Fixed Term Parliament Act 2011, a general election can only be called in the following circumstances:

"A motion of no confidence is passed in Her Majesty's Government by a simple majority and 14 days elapses without the House passing a confidence motion in any new Government formed

A motion for a general election is agreed by two thirds of the total number of seats in the Commons including vacant seats (currently 434 out of 650)"

Of course it is possible that a coalition could be formed in the days after the election, rather than a minority administration, but with the Lib Dem vote expected to collapse dramatically and UKIP only likely to get a decent handful of seats, it is possible that three parties might be needed to form a coalition. And with the SNP on the rise in Scotland, it is likely that a confidence and supply agreement might be one alternative to a fragmented coalition of perhaps three of more parties. Whilst in theory, say if David Cameron becomes Prime Minister under such an arrangement, other parties would back his party on some important issues, but getting others through will be tough without more compromise. Furthermore, as we have seen in Sweden, a minority government or coalition can lead to instability.

By May next year, despite rumours about leadership challenges, either David Cameron or Ed Miliband will be in Downing Street.

However, neither are likely to get there on the backs of their own party alone. Instead cooperation, arrangements and deals with other parties will get them there.

Both coalitions and minority (confidence and supply) arrangements have their pros and their cons, but Wednesday’s events in Sweden are a reminder that the latter presents a very real danger to whoever walks into Number 10.

And perhaps a second chance for the party that does not.