The parliamentary situation in Sweden, with a centre-right minority government and three different political blocks, were for the first first time tested yesterday when a new speaker was to be elected. It turned out to be a rather undignified affair.
First the political veteran and Social Democrat Björn von Sydow refused to stand for election, this because he did not want to risk to become speaker with support from the nationalist Sweden Democrats.
After this public position it was difficult for the opposition to find a new candidate with enough political weight, Social Democrat backbencher Kent Härstedt became their nominee.
The reason for opposition leader Mona Sahlin to nominate anyone at all was to highlight that the centre-right in some situations depends on how the Sweden Democrats are voting.
This failed in a very embarrassing way.
High-profiled Social Democrat politician Tomas Bodström was absent from the vote. He had failed to formerly apply for his six-month long leave in the U.S.
Left Party politician Christina Raise Larsen missed the vote because of a toilet visit.
Last but not least, one unknown MP of the opposition voted for the government candidate, Moderate politician Per Westerberg. The rumours say it was an intended vote by an Left Party MP who is not comfortable with the Red-Green party coalition.
How the Sweden Democrats voted? They voted for Westerberg and thus supported the government. Most likely because a vote on the opposition candidate would have been a rather pointless demonstration of power, this since they had nothing to gain. It also seems like they want to frame themselves as politically responsible.
However, thanks to the lack of discipline among opposition MPs, the government candidate won without the need of Sweden Democrat support.
The centre-right on their part has pointed out that the only way the opposition candidate could have been elected would be if he had got the support from the Sweden Democrats.
Power, prestige and silliness
Who's the speaker of Parliament is only of marginal importance for the national governance. But the post is very prestigious. The speaker is the deputy Head of State, second to the King.
But yesterdays election of the speaker showed how this term may become somewhat silly, like the child's play musical chairs, with the both major blocks tossing the Sweden Democrats on each other.
Both blocks should refrain from this silly game that the parliamentary situation invites to. During the term of office, it may well be that policies from both the government and the opposition get the support of the Sweden Democrats.
We face a rather messy term, but this is hardly the end of the world. The Parliament has to function. Swedish voters hate political disarray.