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Under The Radar – 26 November

This week, we discuss:

  1. Sweden’s first female PM resigns within hours

  2. OPEC+ members to halt global supplies

  3. El Salvador attempts to become a crypto pioneer

Sweden’s first female prime minister resigns within hours

What Happened? Sweden’s first female Prime Minister-elect, Magdalena Andersson, was forced to resign just hours after being appointed. She stood down after her coalition partner, the Greens, quit the government. What does it mean?

Ms Andersson, the current finance minister, had just won a dramatic vote in the country’s Riksdag to become the country’s next prime minister. With 174 of the 349 Riksdag members voting against her and only 117 MPs backing her, Andersson did not win a majority. However, under Swedish law, she only needed a majority of MPs not to vote against her. As such, with 57 abstentions, she secured the narrowest of victories – by just one vote.

Andersson’s election as the head of a minority government came after an 11th-hour deal with the opposition Left party, who required concessions on higher pensions and health insurance in exchange for their support. Andersson had also initially secured the support of both the Centre Party and the Greens.

Despite Sweden’s flagship gender equality policies like shared parental leave, it is now the only Nordic nation to have never had a female prime minister. However, the Greens’ withdrawal from the government caused her leadership to unravel just a few hours later, making for a very short-lived tenure as Sweden’s first female leader.

Magdalena has since told the speaker of parliament that she hopes to be re-appointed as prime minister at the head of a single-party government instead. But, with elections set for next year, such an arrangement would put Andersson in a vulnerable position at a time when Swedish politics is becoming increasingly divided.

OPEC+ members to halt global supplies in response to release

What happened? The head of the International Energy Agency has called on OPEC+, the cartel of the 24 largest oil-exporting countries, to increase oil supplies in order to calm global markets amid rising prices.

What does this mean?

As the global energy market becomes increasingly unstable, the possibility of a political rift is emerging between major oil-exporting and consuming countries. Over the past week alone, the US, China, Japan and the UK have all said they will now release millions of barrels of oil from their strategic reserves. Though the move was aimed at lowering the global price of crude oil, this so far seems to have been unsuccessful – it has been reported that both Saudi Arabia and Russia are now considering a pause in their own supplies in response to the release of strategic reserves. Whilst OPEC+ members have been coordinating their outputs, Saudi Arabia and Russia now appear set on taking a different route. The UAE, however, does not believe a pause in supplies is necessary, meaning a disagreement between them at OPEC+’s next strategy meeting in December is expected. OPEC+ was created in 2018, through the addition of 10 members to the original 14 OPEC-founders, in an attempt to gain near-total control over global oil supplies and reserves. With such considerable influence over a vital global commodity, it remains to be seen whether the recent release of oil reserves will be strong enough to resist any backlash from OPEC+.

El Salvador attempts to become crypto pioneer

What happened?

President Nayib Bukele of El Salvador has announced plans to build a ‘volcano-powered bitcoin city’. The move reflects both Bukele’s commitment to El Salvador becoming a ‘crypto trailblazer’, in spite of thousands taking to the streets back in September to protest Bitcoin becoming legal tender. What does it mean?

In September, El Salvador became the first country to adopt cryptocurrency as legal tender, in an attempt to facilitate economic growth, greater financial inclusion and a lesser reliance on the US dollar. And whilst cryptocurrencies like Bitcoin and Dogecoin have been hot topics in the media for some time now, this latest development has raised several eyebrows. While on the surface it may appear that Bukele is leading a fintech revolution, commentators have linked his decision to the rocky funding talks between El Salvador and the IMF, centred around the IMF’s concerns over the economic risks involved in such a move. Public sentiment in El Salvador has been unenthusiastic, with the cost of transactions on everyday purchases often outweighing the cost of the purchase itself. Furthermore, Salvadorans have frequently been unable to utilise the platform because the app, Chivo, has been plagued by technical difficulties since its inception.

Despite the scepticism around cryptocurrency and its stability – or lack thereof – several central banks are weighing up the pros and cons of launching their own digital currencies. Though it remains to be seen whether the institutionalised introduction of cryptocurrencies on a global scale will become commonplace, many will be watching developments in El Salvador closely.

This week’s must reads:

  1. “The conservative war on education that failed” by Adam Laats for The New Statesman

  2. “For Brexiteers who dreamed of taking back control, France is too close for comfort” by Rafael Behr for The Guardian

  3. “The gap between Boris and business widens” by Kate Andrews for The Spectator

  4. “The Times view on Europe’s Covid riots: Vaccine Lies” by The Times

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