COPENHAGEN, Denmark -- Sweden's justice minister narrowly survived a no confidence vote in parliament Tuesday over surging crime, in a ballot that had threatened to topple Prime Minister Magdalena Andersson’s minority government as the country is jockeying to join NATO amid strong opposition from Turkey.
But the key move that saved the government came from independent, Kurdish Iranian-born lawmaker Amineh Kakabaveh, who's a red rag for Turkey: a vocal critic of Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdogan, and a former member of an armed Kurdish militant group who speaks up for the Kurdish cause.
Turkey — which as a NATO member has a blocking vote — has opposed the bids by Sweden and neighboring Finland to join NATO amid Russia's invasion of Ukraine. Erdogan accuses the two Nordic countries of backing militant Kurdish groups like the Kurdistan Workers' Party, or PKK, a group listed as terrorist by the European Union and the U.S. that has waged a long and bloody insurrection in Turkey.
In Tuesday's ballot in Sweden's 349-seat parliament, the right-leaning opposition had secured 174 votes, one short of the required 175. After Kakabaveh abstained, there were still 174 votes against Justice Minister Mogan Johansson, 97 in his favor, 70 abstentions and eight absentees.
Prime Minister Andersson, the leader of the Social Democrats, had said that if the no confidence vote was approved her government would resign. Sweden faces general elections on Sept. 11.
In recent years, Sweden has suffered a rise in organized crime activity with several gang-related shootings in its the major cities of Stockholm, Goteborg and Malmo. Last week, the right-wing populist Sweden Democrats had called for the no confidence vote, claiming Johansson had allowed “Sweden to become a gangster country.”
But Kakabaveh, 51, said the justice minister deserved to stay in office.
“I know that Morgan Johansson is a politician who cares about the rule of law. I do not trust the opposition,” she said before Tuesday's vote. Kakabaveh stressed that Johansson had succeeded in, among others, fighting violence against women, including so-called honor killings.
Turkey’s Ambassador to Sweden Hakki Emre Yunt claimed in an interview with Swedish news agency TT last month that the PKK has ties to certain lawmakers in Sweden who allegedly work against Turkey by taking a stance against Ankara.
“I can mention Amineh Kakabaveh since she had an agreement with the Social Democratic Party to support them,” he said.
In November, Kakabaveh’s vote allowed Andersson to become the country’s first female prime minister.
“If women are only allowed to vote but are never elected to the highest office, democracy is not complete,” she had said at the time. “Feminism is always about girls and women being complete people who have the same opportunities as men and boys.”