Lofven had faced a deadline of midnight on June 28 to either step down or call a snap election after losing a June 21 confidence vote when the Left Party withdrew its support for him.
“I have requested to be dismissed as prime minister,” Lofven told a news conference, admitting defeat in his efforts to find fresh support from lawmakers that might have secured his reappointment. “It is the most difficult political decision I have ever taken.”
Speaker Andreas Norlen will now have up to four attempts to find a new prime minister with enough backing from parliament. If he fails, a snap election must be called.
Any new administration will serve for just a short time, as a regular election must be held in September 2022.
“With one year left until the election, and an ongoing pandemic, a snap election is not the best thing for Sweden,” Lofven said on June 28. “We can’t use our time for political games.”
Sweden hopes to lift mostly voluntary COVID-19 restrictions after the summer, as infections have been falling.
Nicholas Aylott, associate professor of political science at Sodertorn University, said Lofven could probably return as prime minister with support from the Left and Centre parties. But a government would only be viable if he can get them to agree on a budget.
“Lofven is surely confident that he’ll cobble together the 175 votes that he needs,” he said. “Getting the Left and Centre parties behind the same budget will be tricky, but some fudge could be found.”
By Simon Johnson & Johan Ahlander