Sweden’s Social Democrats elect Magdalena Andersson as leader
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Stockholm (AFP) – On Thursday, Sweden’s ruling Social Democrats elected Finance Minister Magdalena Andersson as the new party leader, which put her on the road to becoming the country’s first female prime minister.
The 54-year-old economist and former top swimmer, who ran without resistance, was confirmed by the party’s annual congress to succeed the outgoing leader and Prime Minister Stefan Lofven, who announced his resignation in August.
“I am of course both honored and happy and feel a great humility before the assignment, but above all I am enormously excited to lead our large and proud party,” Andersson told the congress after his election, to roaring applause.
Andersson also outlined three political priorities for the coming years.
Firstly, she wanted to “take back democratic control over schools, health care and care for the elderly” in the country, which has long had a debate about the liberalization and privatization of the welfare sector and that companies can make money on taxpayers’ money.
Secondly, she wanted Sweden to become a leader in “climate change” and become a role model for the world.
“Thirdly, I want, no, I demand that we turn every stone to end segregation and smoke out the violence that threatens our entire society,” Andersson said.
In recent years, the Nordic country has struggled to curb the growing shootings and bombings – usually gangs and organized crime involving drug trafficking.
Andersson is now on his way to becoming the next prime minister after Lofven’s resignation after seven years as head of government, with less than a year before the election is expected in September 2022.
Lofven, who is still prime minister, has not yet announced the exact date of his resignation.
Once he is gone, Andersson would need to win a vote in the Riksdag to become Sweden’s first female prime minister.
The achievement of installing a woman in Rosenbad’s seat of government sounds almost anachronistic in a country that has long fought for equality
All other Nordic countries, Norway, Denmark, Finland and Iceland, have all seen women lead their governments.
But while Sweden has had several challengers, they have never really gotten to the top job.
Anna Lindh, Foreign Minister and Social Democrat colleague, died after a knife attack in a department store in 2003.
Mona Sahlin, the first woman to lead the Social Democrats and a deputy prime minister, was first sidelined by a 1995 spending scandal involving Toblerone chocolate, and later resigned in 2011 following an election defeat.
The job may still prove to be a poisoned lime – Andersson will be commissioned to try to keep his party in power at a time when it is close to its lowest approvals ever.
In Sweden’s Riksdag, the political forces are so finely balanced that the Social Democrats need support from both their Green Party’s coalition partners and the Left and Center parties to elect a new Prime Minister.
Choosing Lofven after the 2018 election took months of political strife.
His government was ousted in a no-confidence vote last summer, only to return weeks later as no other candidates could gather enough support.
If Andersson claims the post, she will also immediately be given the thankless task of sending a budget through the locked legislator.
She was born in the university city of Uppsala and is the only daughter of a university professor and a teacher who first made a name for herself in the water, where she twice won gold in the Swedish junior-SM.
Still relatively unknown to the public, Andersson will have less than a year to sit on the map and avoid having a very short-term tenancy in the seat of power.
Although there are many challenges, the expectation that she will quickly solve difficult problems can also be an opportunity.
“It gives her a mandate for change and shows voters that the party has made a fresh start,” wrote Ewa Stenberg, political commentator at Dagens Nyheter.
In political circles, Andersson has built up a reputation for being blunt.
A recent program that profiled her on the public TV channel SVT was entitled “The Bulldozer”.
She has previously described herself as a “nice, hard-working woman”, and when asked at the press conference how she would celebrate her new job, she simply replied: “I will work.”
© 2021 AFP