Incumbent prime minister Stefan Löfven of the centre-left Social Democrats and Ulf Kristersson of the conservative Moderates presented their final reports to the speaker of parliament today, updating him on their progress in government negotiations.
Speaker Andreas Norlén first met Löfven at 10am in his office in parliament, before speaking to Kristersson half an hour later, following weeks of secret talks between party leaders.
Löfven was reticent in a press conference following his meeting, saying: "Discussions are still ongoing."
He described the talks as "constructive" and said that the focus was on ensuring Sweden had "a viable government as soon as possible". But the Social Democrat leader said he could not give any comment on how likely it was that he would be the one to form that government.
Kristersson's comments were similar.
"I can actually only confirm that over the weekend intensive discussions have taken place between the parties of the Alliance, in a good atmosphere. And they are continuing," the Moderate leader said, referring to the Christian Democrats, Centre and Liberal parties, which together with Kristersson's party make up the Alliance.
The Centre and Liberal parties voted against a government led by Kristersson in an earlier vote, and the two have ended up in a king-maker role since the September 9th election left the country divided. It is likely that both Löfven and Kristersson have focussed on trying to attract their support in recent weeks.
To achieve this, Löfven will have had to move right on issues such as workers' rights and market liberalism, without losing the votes of the Left Party to his left. Kristersson will have had to promise his allies that his government would not be dependent on the Sweden Democrats – without losing the support of the Sweden Democrats.
Löfven is the leader of the biggest centre-left party, and Kristersson of the biggest centre-right party. Photo: Anders Wiklund/TT
Norlén has already named January 16th as the date when the next prime ministerial candidate will face a parliamentary vote. Two such votes have already been held, with both Löfven and Kristersson failing to gain enough support from parliament.
By far the most likely scenario is that one of these two would be proposed for the role a second time. Norlén is expected to name his candidate on Monday.
A prime ministerial candidate does not need a majority of parliament to vote in their favour in order to be accepted, but if a majority vote against, the proposal will fail. This system, called 'negative parliamentarism', allows minority governments to rule thanks to abstentions or 'passive support'.
If this third vote is unsuccessful, a fourth vote would happen on January 23rd, Norlén has said. If one of these votes is successful, the new prime minister will officially take on the role and name their cabinet within a matter of days.
But if neither vote is successful, Sweden will need to hold a second election, which must then happen no more than three months after the fourth and final vote. Swedish elections are always held on Sundays, so the latest date this could happen would be April 21st.
This means that Sweden is in wholly untested waters. Previously, parliament has always accepted the first proposed prime minister.
To catch up with everything that has happened since the election, The Local's timeline offers a handy overview. And if you have any questions about the process, please log in to comment below.