• Sweden edition
 
SOCIAL DEMOCRATS IN TURMOIL
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
Swedish expert slams Norway terror alert
Terrorism expert Ranstorp and a policeman in Norway. Photos: TT

Swedish expert slams Norway terror alert

A Swedish terrorism expert has come forward criticizing the way Norway has handled its recent terror threat, saying the day the threat began was a "total problem in intelligence". READ  

Swedish nurse reported for patient 'death wave'

Swedish nurse reported for patient 'death wave'

A nurse in southern Sweden has been reported for abuse at a senior care centre after she allegedly waved to a colleague with the hand of a recently-dead resident. READ  

Pandas Plopp and Polly born in Swedish zoo
Plopp and Polly, the offspring of Pandora the panda. Photo: Kolmården

Pandas Plopp and Polly born in Swedish zoo

A pair of red panda cubs have been born in central Sweden, a wildlife park announced on Monday. READ  

Green Party ranked 'most gay friendly' in Sweden

Green Party ranked 'most gay friendly' in Sweden

The Green Party's views are 88.6 percent "LGBT-friendly", a Swedish LGBT rights group claimed on Monday, making the Greens the most gay-friendly of all Sweden's parliamentary parties. READ  

Man held on suspicion of murdering wife
Police on the scene. Photo: Johan Nilsson/TT

Man held on suspicion of murdering wife

Updated: Police arrested a man in Copenhagen on the suspicion of killing his wife, whose body was found at the couple's home in southern Sweden during the weekend. READ  

Arlanda, Stockholm
Lightning bolt grounds flight to New York

Lightning bolt grounds flight to New York

Swedes bound for New York learned on Monday morning that their plane had been cancelled after it was hit by lightning during Sunday's thunderstorm. READ  

Elderly Swedish man stripped of his 35 cats

Elderly Swedish man stripped of his 35 cats

The County Administrative Board of Skåne has decided to confiscate the 35 cats of an 81-year-old man who was forbidden from having more than nine of the furry felines. READ  

Wild weather set to strike Sweden anew
Photo: TT

Wild weather set to strike Sweden anew

With Sunday's thunderstorm reported as the worst of the year so far, Sweden is bracing for round two on Monday as meteorologists predict more of the same. READ  

Swedish youth suicides hit 25-year high

Swedish youth suicides hit 25-year high

Last year 1,600 people in Sweden took their own lives - and for Swedes aged 15 to 24, the numbers haven't been so high since 1989. READ  

Floods replace Swedish heatwave
The Viking Lines ferry pictured was ripped away from the dock as a result of the storm. Per Gustavsson / TT

Floods replace Swedish heatwave

The Swedish summer was washed away on Sunday as thunderstorms caused chaos in Stockholm, including torrents of water flooding down stairways at metro stations. READ  

RECEIVE OUR NEWSLETTER AND ALERTS
Gallery
People-watching, June 26th - 28th. Get inside Stockholm's hottest nightclubs
Gallery
Top ten Swedish taboos
Society
Seven-year-old Swede cycles to Berlin
Politics
'Gaza conflict needs help, not empty rhetoric'
Society
Swedes voted 'most beautiful' in the Nordics
Blog updates

27 July

Approaching Stockholm (Around Sweden in a kayak) »

"I woke up in the comfort of my own little cabin on Eva and Rolf’s boat, it was 7:30am and I was feeling a bit groggy after a couple of beers with all the lovely locals the night before. The previous day had really taken its toll on my body and I was very stiff and..." READ »

 

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 »

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

729
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
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.
AA-EUROPE.ORG/SWEDEN
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:
http://psdmedia.se