Persson, who up to now has dismissed talk of resigning, told journalists on Tuesday that it was “an open question” as to whether he would remain in his post after the conference. If he were to quit as party leader he would resign as prime minister as a matter of course.
Asked who he would like to succeed him, Persson said that he had “can’t get involved” in such questions. It has been widely reported that Finance Minister Pär Nuder is his favoured successor, rather than EU Commissioner Margot Wallström, who is more popular in the party and among voters.
In an opinion piece in Monday’s Aftonbladet, Wallström wrote that she did not want to become party leader, although her popularity means there would be a great deal of pressure for her to stand if Persson were to leave office.
Persson’s decision to raise the subject of his future has surprised party members and political experts.
Torsten Svensson of Uppsala University says that it was strange for Persson to talk of resigning when there is no clear successor.
“It’s hard to see who the potential successors are, particularly as Wallström has said clearly that she will not stand,” Svensson told The Local.
Even Pär Nuder may be disadvantaged by an early change of leadership. Svensson argues that it could still be a little early for Nuder, who has only been finance minister since October.
“He has not yet had time to be tested as finance minister,” he says.
Many of the Social Democrats’ party chairmen were equally puzzled by Persson’s talk of quitting, saying that it caused uncertainty.
“I think you’re leader until you quit,” said Helene Fritzon, regional chairwoman of the party in Skåne. “It would have been better had he said: ‘I am party leader and have no plans to go yet,’ ” she said to TT.