• Sweden edition
An indictment of the Social Democrats?
Outgoing Social Democratic leader Mona Sahlin speaks at Norra Bantorget on May 1

An indictment of the Social Democrats?

Published: 15 Nov 2010 12:34 GMT+01:00
Updated: 15 Nov 2010 12:34 GMT+01:00

In her 1996 book “Med mina ord” (‘In my words’) Mona Sahlin writes that she wants to offer her own view of “the way into (and out of?) politics”. But after the scandal and timeout of the mid-1990s, she started a new path which carried Swedish politics’ own “comeback kid” all the way to becoming the Social Democrats’ first female party leader.

On Sunday, Sahlin climbed into a black car after the press conference at the party’s headquarters at Sveavägen 68 in Stockholm in which she announced she was stepping down from her post.

This time, the road took her away from the hot air of politics - for good.

Sahlin was in step with the times, an assessment often used in reference to her role model, Olof Palme. She was also the first woman party secretary for the Social Democrats from 1992 – 1994, during which she fostered transparency and modernised how the party functioned.

She forced a slow-moving party to address issues such as feminism, anti-racism, structural discrimination, and LGBT rights. Concrete measures implemented during her time as sustainable development minister (2004-2006) are mentioned less frequently.

Her 2010 book, “Möjligheternas land” (‘The land of opportunity’) is characterized by a modern radicalism at a time of social democratic confusion across Europe.

But in September, the Social Democrats had their worst election since 1914. The causes were many. The confused emergence of formal cooperation within the centre-left Red-Green opposition; the lack of generational change; unclear political priorities; the inability to translate for voters the vague notion of a land of opportunity into concrete reforms.

As party leader, Sahlin bears the ultimate responsibility.

The clumsy way she handled the post-election debate created a vacuum that was filled by a pressure cooker of speculation. And the turbulence finally forced her to resign.

John F. Kennedy pointed out that the word 'crisis' is composed of two characters in Chinese. The first character stands for 'danger'; the other for 'opportunity'. Of course, potential can manifest itself now that the crisis of realisation has finally hit the Social Democrats.

The period up to the next extraordinary congress in March will be characterized by tough political recalculations. A strategic renewal will be conducted with experienced, key personnel still in place, but the stalwart politicians of yesteryear will be replaced with new talents. The Social Democratic party will rally around a candidate to take over as party leader who will suddenly seem obvious.

But there are also signs of danger.

For Mona Sahlin's departure can be seen as an indictment of a deadlocked party apparatus.

Of a party that doesn’t know what it wants and isn’t thinking clearly; of a party that isn’t up to the task of choosing a political path or implementing necessary organizational reforms.

That fritters away political talents.

That doesn’t understand the seriousness of playing power politics so that no one dares to think about how former prime minister Ingvar Carlsson, or a formalist like former defence minister Thage G. Peterson, sighs when they open their morning papers at the kitchen table.

Perhaps Sahlin had a mandate to continue as long as the accusatory spotlight was only focused on her. Did her support disappear when she invited the whole party apparatus to share responsibility and resign their seats?

In the last paragraph of “Med mina ord”, Mona Sahlin leaves the Riksdag and government to the freedom anthem “Oh Freedom”. The Social Democrats seem to need the departing party leader’s advice and stability during the time leading up the next party congress.

But perhaps, when Sahlin drove off in that black car from Sveavägen 68 on Sunday, she played the song again as a foretaste,

However: When we now know that Sahlin will get her freedom in March 2011, 29 years after she entered parliament, another question comes to mind:

Who wants, can, and has the energy to lead the Social Democrats to an election victory in 2014?

Eric Sundström is the editor of the progressive news website Dagens Arena and chair of the Social Democratic Press Association (Socialdemokratiska pressföreningen).

This article was originally published in Swedish on the Dagens Arena website on Monday, November 15th. Translation by The Local.

Paul Rapacioli (paul.rapacioli@thelocal.com)

Don't miss...X
Left Right

Your comments about this article

01:21 December 11, 2010 by frosti
In the future, Sahlin will be remembered as one of the most destructive and malignant figures in Swedish history.
Today's headlines
Politician reported for selling 'negro ball'
A selection of Swedish chocolate balls. Leif R Jansson/TT

Politician reported for selling 'negro ball'

UPDATED: The Afro-Swedish national association has reported Swedish politician Eva Sidekrans to the police for selling chocolate balls labelled as "old fashioned unprejudiced negro ball" saying it incites racial hatred. She has since apologized. READ  

'Dead' Swede's damages claim killed off

'Dead' Swede's damages claim killed off

A 36-year-old woman in central Sweden who was listed as deceased by the tax office has lost her claim for damages after the Chancellor of Justice rejected her demand for compensation. READ  

Five dead in 'black Friday' drownings
A life ring pictured in Stockholm. Maja Suslin/TT

Five dead in 'black Friday' drownings

Five people died in drowning related incidents on Friday, further raising the death toll of those lost in the water in July. READ  

Swedes insist EU prioritize environment

Swedes insist EU prioritize environment

An EU public opinion poll released on Friday revealed that Sweden is the only nation which thinks the environment should be a top priority for the union. READ  

Police turn blind eye to Swedish 'slave trade'
File photo: TT

Police turn blind eye to Swedish 'slave trade'

Police in Gothenburg have confirmed that sex trafficking in the city has developed into a full-blown slave trade - but that they lack the resources to do anything about it. READ  

Pirate Bay inmate claims religious persecution
Photo: TT/The Missionary Church of Kopimism

Pirate Bay inmate claims religious persecution

Peter Sunde has complained that his religious rights have been impinged after he was refused permission to meet a representative of a church inspired by the keyboard shortcuts for cut and paste. READ  

Stockholm 'bomb man' jailed and deported
Police at the scene of the threat in June. Photo: Bertil Ericson/TT

Stockholm 'bomb man' jailed and deported

The 43-year-old man who threatened Stockholm's Gamla Stan with a bomb in June was sentenced on Friday to two years in jail, followed by deportation. READ  

Swedish police: 'We're sweaty all the time'
Swedish cops are unhappy with the heat. Photo: Håkan Dahlström/Flickr

Swedish police: 'We're sweaty all the time'

Swedish weather agencies say the summer's warmest day is yet to come, but police in the north have decided that they can't take the heat - and filed a report about the own stifling police station. READ  

SAS resumes flights from Stockholm to Tel Aviv
File photo: Johan Nilsson/TT

SAS resumes flights from Stockholm to Tel Aviv

SAS Scandinavian Airlines has resumed flights from Stockholm to Tel Aviv after the airline completed a 'thorough security analysis' of the situation in Israel. READ  

Swedish man stabs woman and kills himself
A Stockholm police car. File photo: TT

Swedish man stabs woman and kills himself

A man and a woman, reported to be both 45-years-old, were found dead on Thursday in an apartment on Lidingö in Stockholm with police suspecting a murder and suicide. READ  

Top ten Swedish taboos
Seven-year-old Swede cycles to Berlin
'Gaza conflict needs help, not empty rhetoric'
Swedes voted 'most beautiful' in the Nordics
Business & Money
Sweden demands EU clarity on Bitcoin tax
Blog updates

24 July

Sharing our Pride: Celebrating Love & the LGBT Community! (Stockholm in my American Heart) »

"It’s mid- July in Stockholm, and with much of the city on vacation, things can seem a little quiet – the streets, the bus, and the grocery store. One thing that has not paused for a summer break, though, is preparation for Stockholm’s Pride Festival, which will take place from July 28 to August 2...." READ »


22 July

Det (The Swedish Teacher) »

"Hej! “Det” is a personal pronoun that can be used in many ways, and it might me confusing if you always translate “det” to English “it”. In this article I will do my best to guide you to how to use “det”. Det replacing a word, a phrase or a clause Let us begin with the less confusing..." READ »

Swedish organic sales enjoy 'amazing' growth
Photo: Johan Nilsson/TT
What's On in Sweden
People-watching July 23
Swedish cops elect not to shoot 'angry elks'
Business & Money
New alcohol retail rules threaten micro-breweries
People-watching Båstad
Business & Money
Sweden falls to third in global innovation index
Swedish ornithologists keep webcam watch
Photo: Andreas Nordström/Image Bank Sweden
Top ten Swedish beach hot spots
Swedish Wiki vet sets new content record
Photo: Fastighetsbyrån
In Pictures: The Local's Property of the Week
Photo: Finest.se
People-watching July 15-16
Photo: Ola Ericson/Image Bank Sweden
What's On in Sweden
Photo: Lisa Mikulski
Hope springs eternal for expat pet shop owner
Princess Estelle steals limelight at mum's birthday
Swedes risk infants' lives by covering up prams
Swede runs for office just using Bitcoin funds
People-watching July 11-13
Sponsored Article
Introducing... Your finances in Stockholm
Sponsored Article
Introducing... Housing in Stockholm
Latest news from The Local in Austria

More news from Austria at thelocal.at

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 Denmark

More news from Denmark at thelocal.dk

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

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:
If you want to drink, that’s your business.
If you want to stop, we can help.

Learn more about English-language Alcoholics Anonymous in Sweden. No dues. No fees. Confidentiality assured.
PSD Media
PSD Media is marketing company that offers innovative solutions for online retailers. We provide modern solutions that help increase traffic and raise conversion. Visit our site at: