• Sweden edition
 

Profile: Mona Sahlin

Published: 18 Jan 2007 14:04 GMT+01:00
Updated: 18 Jan 2007 14:04 GMT+01:00

Sweden's Social Democrats have finally announced their preferred candidate for the position of party leader.

Mona Sahlin (née Andersson) was born in the northern Swedish town of Sollefteå on March 19th 1957. Her family moved to Stockholm in the mid-1960s. By the time she had left the city's Södra Latin school in 1977 she had already developed a taste for politics.

As early as 1964 she embarked on her first foray into organisational life when she founded the Swedish Barbie Club.

She joined the youth branch of the Social Democrats in 1973 and became involved in the pro-FNL movement during the Vietnam War.

In 1976 she met David Peña at a Social Democrat youth camp. Though Sahlin's first child, Ann-Sofie, was born two years later, the relationship did not last.

When she was elected to the Swedish parliament in 1982 she was the assembly's youngest ever member.

It was also in 1982 that she married Bo Sahlin. The couple have had three children - Jenny, Gustav and Johan. Sahlin has talked openly about the tragic death of Johan, who passed away during the first year of his life as a result of heart trouble.

In 1990 Sahlin received her first ministerial post when she was named labour minister under Ingvar Carlsson.

Two years later she became party secretary, a post she held until 1994 when she rejoined the cabinet as equality minister.

Sahlin's rise to prominence was such that she soon became favourite to succeed Ingvar Carlsson as party leader. After he announced his resignation Sahlin soon became the sole candidate to take over.

That the party would soon receive its first ever female leader seemed little more than a formality.

But it was not to be. At least not yet. In October 1995 a scandal broke that almost ended her political career.

During the 'Toblerone affair', as it came to be known, it emerged that Sahlin had purchased a range of goods and services for private use on her ministerial credit card. The chocolate bar that symbolised the scandal was far from the most expensive item on the charge sheet.

She also made thousands of kronor worth of cash withdrawals and paid for private rental cars at her employer's expense. Sahlin maintained that she intended paying the money back but by then the damage was already done.

In the wake of the initial scandal she was also found to have hired a child minder off the books and had neglected to pay her television licence, offences that cost the careers of two ministers at the beginning of the current government's term of office.

Unpaid parking and daycare fines were also held up as examples of why she was unfit to lead the land.

Having taken a few weeks off work to consider her options she announced in November 1995 that she was withdrawing her candidacy for the post of party leader. It was only then that Göran Persson stepped up to the breach, before holding on to the top spot until the September 2006 election.

Sahlin gave up her seat in parliament in April 1996, although she did retain her position on the party's executive committee,

In 1998 she returned to the parliamentary fray. Göran Persson brought her back into the cabinet, where she remained an ever present figure until the party's election defeat in 2006.

Despite playing her part in successive governments, most recently as minister of sustainable development (2004-2006), many observers considered her days as a major political force to be over.

Even when it became obvious that the Social Democrats wanted a female leader, Sahlin's troubled past seemed to rule her out of contention.

In fact, during the summer of 2006 she was so far off the pace that bookmaker Ladbrokes was offering odds of 1000/1 on her succeeding Göran Persson as party leader.

But one by one the figures expected to come to the fore announced that they were not interested in leading the party into the 2010 election.

As Margot Wallström, Carin Jämtin, Ulrica Messing and Thomas Bodström all fell by the wayside, the first careful whispers could again be heard extolling the virtues of a certain Mona Sahlin.

Politically she is often regarded as standing to the right of the party divide. She supported Göran Persson's budget cutbacks in the 1990s, for example, and has proved open to the idea of tax breaks for domestic services.

An argument used in her favour is that she has the capacity to emulate rival Fredrik Reinfeldt by winning voters from the political middle ground.

Eleven years on from the scandal that almost finished her political career Sahlin is reputed to have become absolutely meticulous with her receipts. And she has slowly managed to win over many of the sceptics within the ranks of the Social Democrats.

While the media have debated the ins and outs of her possible candidacy, Sahlin, in true Social Democratic fashion, has remained tight-lipped.

But now the notoriously secretive nominating committee has finally unveiled her as its candidate for election at the March party congress.

Barring a repeat of her previous debacle, Mona Sahlin's 50th birthday present will be the prize that she has coveted for over a decade.

Paul O'Mahony (paul.omahony@thelocal.se)

Don't miss...X
Left Right
Today's headlines
Fatal Norrköping brawl
Four brothers held as cops fear brawl reprisals
Photo: Johan Nilsson/TT

Four brothers held as cops fear brawl reprisals

Swedish police fear that several people involved in a brawl in eastern Sweden on Monday night may be seeking revenge after two brothers were shot dead. READ () »

Sponsored Article
Beautiful pearls of southeast Sweden
The town of Västervik.

Beautiful pearls of southeast Sweden

Ask a Swede, and they are likely to say that their favourite holiday spot is in the southeast of Sweden. Eastern Småland and Öland offer a smörgåsbord of all the things dearest to the Swedes - from the beloved children's book author Astrid Lindgren to deep forests, long sandy beaches, perfect spots for that all-important 'fika', and a surprising amount of space, peace and quiet. READ () »

Weekend weather to bring summer warmth
Swedes enjoy hot dogs and cherry blossoms in Stockholm's Kungsträdgården. Photo: Jessica Gow/TT

Weekend weather to bring summer warmth

The sun is set to stick around and temperatures could climb into the twenties over the weekend, Swedish meteorologists said on Wednesday READ () »

Swedes open coffin of 850-year-old king
Erik the Holy's skull and the crown, believed to be Sweden's oldest. Photo: Bertil Enevåg Ericson/TT

Swedes open coffin of 850-year-old king

King Erik the Holy died 854 years ago, but scientists have just unveiled his skull at Uppsala Cathedral. READ () »

'Day-care rapist' admits molesting eight kids

'Day-care rapist' admits molesting eight kids

A 21-year-old man confessed on Wednesday to sex crimes against eight children at a day care where he was working as an intern. READ () »

Swedish cops nab man for having big muscles
An unrelated bodybuilder. File photo: Ann Törnkvist

Swedish cops nab man for having big muscles

Police in Sweden's south who hauled a muscular man in for steroid testing have had their knuckles rapped, after it was ruled that big biceps cannot be grounds for narcotics suspicions. READ () »

Swedish girls report more eating problems
Teen girls. File photo: Chloe Chaplin/Flickr

Swedish girls report more eating problems

A youth wellbeing report from Save the Children found that more teenage girls than in previous surveys reported having an eating disorder. READ () »

'Zlatan will be back for finals': PSG coach
Photo: AP

'Zlatan will be back for finals': PSG coach

Paris Saint-Germain coach Laurent Blanc said on Tuesday that he believed Swedish goal machine Zlatan Ibrahimovic will play again before the end of the season. READ () »

Sponsored Article
India flexes its food, film, and finance muscles
India Gate in New Delhi lit up at dusk echoes the colours of the Swedish flag. File photo: Ann Törnkvist

India flexes its food, film, and finance muscles

India Unlimited, the ambitious programme to showcase the potential for further ties between India and Sweden, on Thursday enters a week for foodies and film buffs, while Scania leads the charge for business seminars during "India+Sweden Week" from April 22nd-28th. READ () »

Swede fined for flashing birdwatcher from tower

Swede fined for flashing birdwatcher from tower

A Swedish man was fined on Tuesday after subjecting a birdwatching woman to an explicit sight she had not expected. READ () »

RECEIVE OUR NEWSLETTER AND ALERTS
Features
Sponsored: South-eastern Sweden offers Öland beaches and more
Gallery
Swedish underwear shop puts staff in front of the camera
Gallery
IN PICTURES: The Local's Property of the Week - Täby
Sponsored: India+Sweden Week - India Unlimited
Features
Sponsored: India+Sweden Week - A film, food, and finance feast
National
University applications rocket to record high
finest.se
Gallery
People-watching April 18-20
TT
Society
Kids in Victorian garb mark Swedish Easter
Shutterstock
National
Swedish MP ordered chemtrail probe
Society
Swedish supermarket Ica pulls contested Easter commercial off air
Kungahuset
Society
Swedish royals set baptism date for princess
finest.se
Gallery
People-watching April 16
Politics
Who's the prime minister's heir?
Advertisement:
Alfie Atkins
Society
Are children's books the key to families integrating in Sweden?
National
'Sweden Dem protests cater to party's martyr image'
National
'Swedish research grants were fantastic, but now it's like Australia'
Society
Only in Sweden: The ten problems you'd never encounter elsewhere
National
Swedes stopped to take my picture, but didn't look me in the eyes
Business & Money
A swipe of the hand replaced cash and cards in Lund
YouTube
Features
Video: Oliver Gee finds out how to embrace The Swedish Hug
TT
National
Abba duo hints at reunion
Private
National
Flash mobs hug it out across Sweden
Finest.se
Gallery
People-watching April 11-13
TT
Politics
Swedes to give six-hour workday a go
Stockholm School of Economics
Sponsored Article
Why a bachelor's degree is no longer enough
Latest news from The Local in Switzerland

More news from Switzerland at thelocal.ch

Latest news from The Local in Germany

More news from Germany at thelocal.de

Latest news from The Local in Spain

More news from Spain at thelocal.es

Latest news from The Local in France

More news from France at thelocal.fr

Latest news from The Local in Italy

More news from Italy at thelocal.it

Latest news from The Local in Norway

More news from Norway at thelocal.no

Blog Update: The Diplomatic Dispatch

28 October 15:16

The Green Growth Group Summit »

"Today on the 28 October in Brussels, a large group of key EU Ministers and business people, including UK Secretary of State for Energy and Climate Change Edward Davey, and Swedish Environment Minister Lena Ek, will meet to discuss green growth. They all have a stake in resolving a challenge which, although it is crucial..." READ »

712
jobs available
Swedish Down Town Consulting & Productions
Swedish Down Town Consulting & Productions is an innovative business company which provides valuable assistance with the Swedish Authorities, Swedish language practice and general communications. Call 073-100 47 81 or visit:
www.swedishdowntown.com