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Social Democrats want female leader

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12:30 CEST+02:00
He has towered over Swedish politics for the best past of the last decade. But could Göran Persson's career be entering its final stages? Persson's 'approval ratings' have plummeted since April, and although his position is safe for the time being, speculation about his possible successor has been building. And some are wondering whether the Swedish government could soon have its first female leader.

The Prime Minister remains the most popular politician in Sweden. But in a poll carried out by Temo, and published in Saturday's DN, only 38 percent of those questioned gave him their 'strong approval'. In April, that figure was 48 percent.

Fredrik Reinfeldt, the leader of the opposition Moderate Party, was also suffering a downturn in popularity: his score was 33 percent, down three points on April's figures.

Indeed, there are signs that the Swedish people are getting fed up of being offered an all-male line up. The big winner in the poll was Centre Party leader Maud Olofsson, who was the third most popular party leader, and was one of the few whose popularity figures improved. Amongst women, she was on level-pegging with Persson, and women younger than 30 actually gave her higher ratings than the PM.

Another sign of political success for the sisterhood involved EU Commissioner Margot Wallström. Long a favourite of rank-and-file Social Democrats, support for her to take over as party leader when Göran Persson leaves office seems to be on the up. And her recent appointment as vice president of the European Commission has only strengthened her standing.

In a survey of chairmen of local branches of the Social Democratic Party, DN found strong support for Wallström. Fifteen out of 26 answered the paper's questions, and eight of these said that they wanted the commissioner to be their next leader.

"For me it's incredibly important that the party does its utmost to ensure that, after 115 years with a male leader, the job goes to a woman," said one chairman.

But the repondents were clear that there should not be any change of leadership until after the next election.

"We need Persson at the election," said another, "He's back in business, and I think that everything will go well as long as his [recently fixed] hip keeps working."

Possible bad news for the ladies comes in the form of trouble for dishy minister Thomas Bodström. The justice minister, whose handling of this month's prison breakouts has already been criticized, was facing further anger this week as new details emerged of the Justice Department's activities in the hours after the escapes. According to Metro, a helicopter that should have been chasing escaped prisoners, was instead diverted to carry Bodström to Stockholm for a meeting about the breakouts.

Ex-footballer and occasional TV pundit Thomas 'Chopper' Bodström defended his journey, saying that the breakouts were "so serious that senior members of the Justice Department had to meet immediately," and adding that he was not aware that the helicopter was needed for anything else.

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