Sweden’s Minister of Finance Magdalena Andersson has been appointed the next leader of the Social Democrats, which puts her on the road to becoming the Nordic region’s first female prime minister.
Andersson will replace Prime Minister Stefan Lofven as party leader at a congress in November before facing a parliamentary vote to become head of the center-left government.
She promised on Wednesday to leave “no stone unturned” in the fight against gang crime, an issue that will dominate next year’s election amid increased violence with rival groups targeting each other with explosives and firearms. About 25 people were taken to hospital after an explosion on Tuesday at an apartment block in Sweden’s second city Gothenburg.
All the other Nordic countries have had at least two female prime ministers, but Sweden, which prides itself as a guiding light for gender equality with a self-proclaimed feminist foreign policy, has never had one.
Andersson will lead the Social Democrats into next year’s parliamentary elections where the center-right opposition is likely to hammer the Social Democrats’ record of crime and immigration after a massive increase in shootings, bombings and grenade attacks.
But she still faces obstacles to becoming prime minister. Her budget for next year, which is presented in her role as finance minister, must still receive parliamentary approval amid major divisions in the left-wing party and centrist parties currently supporting the government. Lofven has said that he would resign if the budget fails after years of fighting with a divided parliament.
Andersson would then need to be approved by the parliament, where the emergence of the populist Sweden Democrats and general political fragmentation have made it difficult to predict votes.
Andersson’s trump card is that Sweden must hold parliamentary elections next September. If the parliament refuses to support her, it is likely that by-elections will take place within three to four months, which means that Swedes would vote twice in 12 months, something most parties want to avoid.
Sweden’s growing problem with gang crime will dominate the election debate.
Ulf Kristersson, leader of the right-wing Center Party Moderate Party, has called on Sweden to use anti-terror legislation against gangs and harsher punishments and says that the Social Democrats have not done enough.
Andersson, who said she was “honored” by a nomination she “never dreamed of”, said gangs had taken entire areas as “hostages” and that only a “full-scale mobilization of society” would strike back control.
She added: “We are plagued by gang crime that does not belong in our country. We do not have a clear picture of what happened in Gothenburg yesterday, but one thing is clear: detonating bombs and throwing grenades straight at where people live is not a matter of individual incidents, but an attack on our society. ”